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The biggest shock of the early game was China getting destroyed in their own war, which they declared against Vietnam. The consequences lasted almost the whole tournament as the Trung Sisters became the world power that so many of us predicted China would be.

But it has to be said, Mao was bloody good at surviving. I will go to my dying day believing that the original AI controlling China ragequit after losing the war, and was replaced by an incomprehensible genius that kept them alive far longer than any reasonable person could have predicted.