(tentative designation: Dìqiú-Tech-I-1)
What made things different? Was it the universities, backed by Daoist temples and protected by custom from Imperial retaliation? Was it the long, successful wars of conquest that forced entrepreneurs to turn to mechanical engineering to replace laborers drafted to the front? Was it the imperial decree for regularized astrological tables that made scholars turn their telescopes to the Heavens? The craze for mechanical toys and clocks that drove increasingly precise manufacturing?
A citizen of Dìqiú, standing in the capital of Kaifeng around the year 1200 of the Christian calendar, watching the first airplanes take flight, might not have known the answer - but he could certainly have known that he, a citizen of Song Dynasty China, was a citizen of the largest and most powerful empire in the world, the center of the Industrial and Scientific Revolutions. The gradual spread of Chinese authority, first into the north, then the south, then the west, then finally the east, need not be told here. By 1500 of the Christian calendar, China did nothing so small as _rule_ the world - from client states in Datsin (where Chinese language, culture, and civilization had become a watchword for civilization) to beautiful Měiguó in the east, China was the center of civilization.
The Song Dynasty weathered everything - the industrial and scientific revolutions, the space race and first contact with the Farsiders, the building of the Dataweb, the first orbital colonies, and even the first superhumans. With their fantastic powers and elaborate disguises, Earth's superbeings were drafted into what became the Imperial Guard, a global peacekeeping organization that enforced the Emperor's will and kept his, or her, children safe on Earth and even in the depths of space. By the middle of the 1600s (in a calendar only Datsin churchmen still used), they were preparing their first stardrive when the Grue came.
In our timeline, the Grue military vessel that passed by Terra in 1644 simply shrugged and continued - one more planet of savage Lor-form humanoids, the galaxy is full of them! This time, confronted with a planet with powerful superhuman defenders and technology that would bring them into the Lor Republic soon, the Grue reacted with force - during an Imperial coronation, an event that required the nobles and grandees from across the world to attend, they dropped teraton-level fusion weapons on Kaifeng and the surrounding cities. Billions died, including the bulk of the Imperial Guard and the entire royal family, and the Grue descended on the planet to loot it of its resources.
The arrow of history was seemingly broken - six hundred years of continuous progress snuffed out by heartless aliens from the stars, the skies going dark with the ashes of what had once been the centers of civilization. With their leaders dead and heroes defeated, the population of Dìqiú was briefly left leaderless and broken. Leadership came from an unexpected source - Zheng Chenggong, commander of the Imperial Guard Academy in a remote, sleepy part of eastern Měiguó. Zheng rallied his students and through them the local population, leading first retaliation against the human collaborators who served the Grue, then against the Grue themselves when they came from the Moon to find out why the mineral shipments had stopped.
It was a long war, one in which the aliens used scorched planet tactics even as they looted the planet of resources, deliberately letting humans starve in droves in order to get what they wanted. By the time the Last War was over, the Grue were gone - having disgustedly abandoned the planet that had proved far too difficult to hold. Zheng Chenggong might have become an Emperor in his own right, but his death at the young age of 37 meant the students of the Academy (now grown warriors and soldiers) lacked leadership. There was conflict and disunity, and for decades the world lay in ruins.
Then the New Order began. Calling itself Dìqiú, after planet Earth itself, the new ideology (arising from Zheng City, where the old Academy had once stood) set aside much of what had once been - Emperors, nobles, gods and magic, all these were dismissed as ideologies that had held back the people of Dìqiú for too long. Dìqiú was a society of one people, one language, one culture, one history, one that would unite and save the disordered planet in the name of superpowers and science. Pure meritocrats, they rejected the prejudices of the old world, albeit retaining a strong attachment to Chinese, the language of civilization. Over a long century, they gradually unified the planet, defeating warlords and Grue remnants, uniting the planet behind the Council of Seven in Zheng City.
Their population is low (about a billion) and their world is still recovering from the horrors of war - but they have superhumans and high technology, and they were on the path to recovering until about twenty years ago (the current year is 1776 in the Christian calendar, though hardly anybody uses that calendar anymore) when dimensional travel was discovered by a laboratory in Zheng City. The rest of the multiverse was not what they expected; full of disordered societies and disordered peoples, bizarre planets full of hundreds! of nations, dominated by alien ideologies like 'democracy' where superhumans work not for the good of the people but as strange independent agents. How could these people protect themselves from the alien galaxy, or the broader threats present in the multiverse.
The Council of Seven knew what to do - Dìqiú had saved one planet. It was time to save all of them.
Like many political ideologies, the philosophy behind Dìqiú is too long to explain here. In practice, what it means is a society of total equality - anyone who can read Chinese and can pass the exams given throughout one's educational period can enter any profession they like. (Those who fail all exams are generally given low-level work like mining out bombed out cities for resources) Salaries, equipment, and material possessions are rewards given by the state, doled out to those who by merit have earned it. Dìqiú takes this much more seriously than many similar societies on Earth-Prime; corruption is rare and discrimination based on gender, race, or culture is vigorously punished, often with the public flogging that is the sentence for many minor crimes.
However, this is not to say Dìqiú is a free society by the standards of Earth-Prime. To make a long story short, Dìqiú ideology believes that ideas, rather than class, culture, or race matter - a state should thus control ideas, thoughts, and beliefs to ensure the happiness and productivity of all citizens. Earth-Prime's democracies feel more like a bizarre anarchy that will no doubt explode at any moment to citizens of Dìqiú; while the collectivist societies feel like a collection of religious fanatics. (They view personal dictatorships with extreme contempt, arguing that monarchies and presidential dictatorships are simply "bandit chieftains")
Dìqiú agents have access to what we might call early 22nd century technology, but it's kept tightly controlled by the Council of Seven - as well as the limited resources available to them. Their mundane agents will have technology (hacking programs, IR slavers, and the like) that will make them a threat even to super-scientists on Earth-Prime, and one of their technopaths would give a team of super-scientists the fight of their lives.
Many Dìqiú agents are superpowered - and indeed with their elaborate costumes, masks, and 'combat names' (they are kept anonymous to the general public in order to show that even the mightiest serve the state, a holdover from Imperial times) , they _almost_ look like Earth-Prime superheroes when they go into battle. They generally do not kill, but will grimly accept necessity if they are forced to in battle. They will do everything within their power to avoid capture, being sure that capture will mean interrogation and being transformed into a pawn of alien dimensions.
Dìqiú agents may be of any race or gender, but they speak Chinese as a first language and have difficulty with other tongues.
So What To Do With These People?
Dìqiú's goal for a world like Earth-Prime would be to bring them unity - one government, one language, one culture, and one organization for superhumans. (For sentimental reasons, they would like it if that language, government, and culture were Chinese, but they can live without it). They might achieve this through a variety of ways - puppet agents in national governments to encourage superhuman registration, propaganda campaigns about world peace and unity, language education with subliminal brainwashing, arms and supplies sent to secret agents to bring about conquest of remote parts of the world, and the like.
They aren't interested in conquest - they see themselves as liberators and would do their best to avoid a high body count on Earth-Prime. (They certainly don't want retaliation here!) They have no truck with aliens, seeing them as likely Grue agents (there does not seem to be a Lor Republic on Dìqiú, or at least it has never contacted their planet) and are fearful of both magic and psionic powers (Dìqiú agents may have both, particularly the latter, but they are tightly controlled by their handlers back in Zheng City). They have little regard for what we might think of as personal freedoms, and tend to dismiss much of Earth-Prime's belief systems as an excuse for license.
Their natural ally on Earth-Prime would be Dr. Sin, though both sides would plan to betray the other - Sin to get access to Dìqiú's technology and unique gene pool, Dìqiú agents because they think of Sin as a bizarre, no doubt treacherous throwback to ancient times.
Edited by Avenger Assembled