Author's Note The central thesis of this article is not my invention. It's derived from an essay entitled "China Without Tears", by Professor Arthur Waldron, which can be found in the book What If?, in which a number of military historians engage in the by-now marginally acceptible pastime of speculating about alternate histories. I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, a trained historian of any type, and am utterly ill-equipped to critique Professor Waldron's theories. So I have made no attempt to do so; instead, I have stolen it whole and put a mild spin on it, just as I have done with the works of others throughout this thread. However, those others are free, as Professor Waldron is not, to tell me to shut my yob. Hence my acknowledgement. Thank you, Professor Waldron. Where I am at best a pretender to scholarship, you are the real deal.
Throughout the continuum, the one great enemy of all parachronic explorers, the one foe which has united forces from Alpha and Prime and from other, less well-known worlds, is the species known as the Ygadthhh in their own language. To speakers of modern English, they are better known as "alien space bats". These perverse entities apparently possess the ability to cross omniversal barriers at will, visiting worlds and employing mind control powers to twist their histories to their own design. Whether there is any rhyme or reason to their actions is known only to them. Dr. Tomorrow once speculated, perhaps seriously, that they regard it as an artform.
In the opinion of those who visited the worldline known (to the Time-Keepers) as Earth-552 prior to its destruction, only the presence of these creatures could possibly explain the historical divergence in its history from that of Control. They were clearly present here, on at least one occasion sixty years ago, though they seem to have been unusually mild in their meddling. Still, to those familiar with the career of Chiang Kai-Shek, it seems clear that nothing else other than the intervention of the alien space bats could have made him make the decision that he made in Earth-552's history, in 1945.
With World War II ended, the struggle for control of China that had been interrupted by the Japanese invasion began once again. Chiang Kai-Shek's Nationalists, who had seized control of the nation in the 1920s, were recognized as the legitimate government of the nation, even by those powers -- such as the Soviet Union -- whom one would have expected to have preferred Mao Tse-Tung's Communists. In discussions about the fate of East Asia at the Yalta conference, Stalin had made arrangements to strengthen Russian influence in the Manchurian region, without any reference to the local Communists.
Of course, that made very little difference. Chiang's Nationalists had fought the Japanese to prevent them from conquering Manchuria, and they were hardly likely to back away from a fight with the Russians over the same territory. This became even more critical when the Chinese Communists sought to shelter under Russian protection in Manchuria. For the Nationalists not to engage the Communists would have been seen as a sign of weakness which they could ill-afford. But they were counseled to do just that by the Americans, who had no wish to see another war break out in the region, particularly one that could escalate into a conflict with the Russians.
In Control's history, the Nationalists responded to this counsel by using diplomacy to persuade the Russians to withdraw their protection from Manchuria, and then launched an invasion patterned on the one which had swept them to power twenty years before. It worked just as well this time, but before the Communists could be crushed, good-intentioned Americans once again intervened to persuade Chiang that pressing on would be a mistake. So he held back ... which proved a far more terrible mistake. The Communists were able to strike back, eventually driving the Nationalists off the continent and onto the island of Formosa, later known as Taiwan.
In the history of Earth-552, Chiang, influenced by the alien space bats, responded to American pressure far more favorably. Rather than persuade the Soviets to withdraw, the Nationalists encouraged them to remain, permitting the establishment of a pair of Soviet satellites on the northern borders of their nation. It was an insane decision; control of Manchuria was the key to an invasion of southern China, as the Japanese and the Manchurians before them had demonstrated. Tolerating such a potentially unfriendly presence as the People's Republics of Manchuria and Mongolia, as they came to be known, would have been beyond the imagination of a Chiang Kai-Shek uninfluenced by alien space bats.
Instead of an external war, the Nationalists turned to an attempt to clean up the endemic corruption that could be found within their own borders. Their success in this attempt was mixed, but they were overall assisted by American aid and by the fact that, contrary to expectations, the end of the war did not bring about a return to the Great Depression. Instead, the world economy continued to prosper. Prosperity brought its own risks, of course, but overall it was generally to the benefit of the Chinese people that Hong Kong and Shanghai both became centers of world trade.
The brief, inglorious Korean conflict might also be attributed to the influence of the alien space bats. Without the example of a victorious Chinese revolution, it's not clear why the leader of North Korea, Kim Il Sung, believed that his attack against the South could possibly succeed. While Stalin authorized the attack, he didn't do much of anything to support the Koreans when the United Nations intervened. And without the support of the Communist Chinese, the counterattack that drove Kim's followers into exile in Manchuria was bound to be a success. The lesson that the Communists took from this was that the time was not ripe for the final confrontation between them and the Capitalists; better, far better, to wait until they became weak, as it was historically inevitable for them to do.
Without a Communist victory in China or a quagmire in Korea, it might seem strange that there was still a "red scare" in the United States. Perhaps the junior senator from Wisconsin was also being directed by the alien space bats, or perhaps (as some genuine conservatives believe on Control, and more do on Earth-552) he was being controlled by more mundane forces, which wished to make anti-Communism as unfashionable as possible. Or perhaps he was simply a bully seizing an opportunity.
Be that as it may, the HUAC hearings had the effect of driving most of the remaining members of the Liberty League into retirement. But new heroes would rise over the next decade to replace them. One of them, the Raven, would draw attention to a true threat to the world's safety which had taken root in Asia, as Communism had not.
French Indochina was not bordered by a Communist state, and its largely Communist insurgency against French colonial rule was not supported by the Nationalist Chinese government. In desperation, the leaders of the Vietminh made a bargain that they would come to regret -- but generally only very briefly -- in accepting aid from Doctor Sin. While his brilliant strategies and strange devices turned the tide against the French, the revelation of the Vietminh's new master robbed them of what little credit they might have had with the rest of the world. And while American heroes were reluctant to fight another war against mere human opponents, it was another matter entirely to contend with the greatest villainous mastermind of all time.
As such, the war in Vietnam wasn't the unpopular war that it became in Control's history. Far fewer troops were dispatched, and there was no draft to be dodged. American military and civilian advisors (including many from AEGIS) provided assistance to a people fighting against a genuine threat to all of humanity, rather than attempting to interfere in a civil war. Superheroes participated on a limited basis, generally at the request of the government when confronted with a particularly serious threat concocted by Dr. Sin.
It helped that there were fewer supervillains on the homefront. This could very well be because of the lack of a Terminus invasion in 1965, and the resultant absence of strange energies that could empower and transform. Of course, that also could be the reason why there were fewer superheroes. But those whom there were endured longer.
Lady Liberty never underwent the power diminishment that she did in the mainline World of Freedom. The Raven, with assistance from Daedelus, managed to develop a version of Dr. Sin's immortality serum that did not require the abominable ingredients of the original, and distributed it to his colleagues, including Dr. Atom and Jack Simmons. Daedelus himself never felt the need to explore the universe. The Star Knight returned promptly to Earth after taking Blackstar in. (Either Mentor detected the activity of the alien space bats, or he was influenced by them himself.) The Scarab never fell to the Scions of Sobek.
Nor were these the only survivors. AEGIS agents, supplementing President Kennedy's secret service protection, discovered Lee Harvey Oswald's sniper nest minutes before the president's limousine arrived at Daley Plaza. (Either there was no second shooter, or he fled when it became apparent that Oswald had failed.) Kennedy's two term presidency was followed by that of his younger brother, who continued the civil rights reforms begun in the second term.
The space race was the source of some tension between the two super-powers, but overall it served to demonstrate American technological superiority. Sadly for some utopian theorists, the lack of wars did not result in more resources being provided for the space programs, which achieved only the same milestones that they would have in Control's history. On the other hand, computer technology progressed every bit as rapidly, despite the lack of a pressing need for a computer network that could survive thermonuclear war.
Outside of Asia, the lack of a genuine panic about the spread of Communism had some additional benefits. The United States never felt the need to preserve and support regimes whose sole virtue was that they were fervently anti-Communist, nor remove those who appeared tempted towards that ideology. Iran's left-leaning secular government was never overthrown in favor of the domination of the Shah, for example, leading to benefits that could never have been anticipated. That said, there was more will to fight Communism when it really did appear, as it did in Cuba.
While some muttered about a dynasty when the third Kennedy brother (having never gone near a place called Chappaquidick) was elected in 1976, his term would prove to be the most trying. The Communist Chinese republics collapsed in 1978, despite Russian support, and were quickly annexed by the stable Nationalist republic. Panicking, the Russians invaded Afghanistan. Without the history of Korea and Vietnam behind them, however, the United States had more than enough will to fight to defend this region. On the other hand, having not spent a great deal of effort to support those wars, the Russians appeared to be in better shape as well.
The war lasted until 1984. Fortunately, it never went nuclear, nor were the supers of either sides asked to intervene. (Officially, at least.) It ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Iron Curtain. Learning from the example of China, the United States remained in Afghanistan to assist in the reconstruction, ensuring that neither the dangerously fanatical mujahedeen nor the amoral warlords had too much influence in the post-war government of the region. Teddy Kennedy's vice president, a Georgia peanut farmer and pacifist, presided over the breakup of the remains of the Soviet empire, declaring that a new world order had begun to emerge.
The Freedom League, now composed largely of immortals (or at least the very long-lived), never broke up. Despite some tense moments in the 1980s, there was never an "Iron Age" when heroes were outlawed or unpopular. Archer came under the Raven's influence, moderating his temper and never needing to engage in deadly combat. Again, there was no Terminus Invasion in 1993. The Labyrinth's attempts to make superhumans were less effective, possibly as a consequence. Although Doctor Metropolis did eventually appear in Freedom City, Johnny Wade and Ray Gardener never developed superpowers.
This was the homeworld of Centuria, where the Silver Age lasted forever. Heroes were heroes, and villains were villains. She was born in 1994, after the science of genetics was finally advanced enough to identify and correct the problems that Mark Leeds and his equally immortal wife, Laurie Leeds, were having in bringing a child to term. Tragically, the much smaller number of heroes who existed on this world were unable to save it when the Terminus did invade, in 2010, with Katie Leeds being the only known survivor of this world's destruction ...