Geological survey teams in the East African Republic of Zandia discover the largest, most accessible deposit of rare earth metals ever found – thulium, lutetium, lanthanum, bauxite, and over fourteen others essential to the production of everything from consumer electronics, military hardware, and precision industrial equipment. Global market value is estimated at over USD 12 Trillion – immediately threatening China’s status as the world’s leading exporter (with over 90% market share).
Using the services of the Syndicate, the world’s leading broker of semi-legal private military interventions, foreign shell companies backed by multinational corporations rush to position private security contractors to exert their influence over the region and solidify their mineral rights. Over the following months, Chinese industrial interests and leading Asian manufacturing companies align under the auspices of the Hong Kong-based Zheng Shi Holdings Group to secretly deploy the world’s largest joint private paramilitary force to Zandia to preserve their monopoly.
The struggling Zandian government fractures as corrupt ministers and regional representatives ally with the highest-bidding sponsors against the weakened national parliament. After two rounds of emergency elections, a provisional government formally invites UN peacekeeping forces to maintain order, secure strategic infrastructure, assist in the evacuation of refugees, and oversee elections in the hopes of averting an escalation of the conflict.
Amid rising tensions, China, Russia, and the U.S. use their veto power in the UN Security Council to order an immediate withdraw of ground troops – abandoning bases, infrastructure, and materiel - and removing the last barrier to direct corporate military action.