The story begins in Hong Kong where a CIA agent meets with a Chinese asset who gives the agent a pair of glasses with information about an attack on the United States which is code named “Snow Dragon." We then see the President of the United States Paul Porter heading a briefing on how to catch Ahmad Yaqub, who is believed to be involved in a terrorist plot. During the meeting, the focus shifts to activity by the Chinese government. The Chinese have started using a site in North Korea as a makeshift training ground, but the U.S. does not know the reasons behind this. At the end of the meeting, the President gives his approval for Operation “Gold Dust” and Operation “Blackbird."
In North Korea, 3 Navy Seals and a CIA agent begin their operation to infiltrate the country and determine what the Chinese are up to. In Pakistan, Scott Harvath and his team prepare to capture Yaqub, but the car carrying some of the team members is rammed by an oncoming vehicle. Eventually, Harvath and his team successfully capture Yaqub and take him into custody where they begin to question him. Harvath learns that Yaqub was used to recruit engineering students to send to the United States. When asked where the 6 students are now, Yaqub says that they are already in the United States.
In China, Colonel Jiang Shi discusses Operation “Snow Dragon” with his contemporaries in the Chinese military. He discusses his plan of unrestricted warfare and how they will make the attack look like it was carried out by Al-Qaeda. In Nashville, a man is being investigated for domestic violence, but when the police officer mentions trafficking young girls for sex, the man gets a panicked look on his face.
In North Korea, the men are nearing the Chinese training ground when they are spotted by a young boy. As the boy turns and runs, he trips and fractures his leg. After much discussion, Billy Tang (the CIA agent), decides they should keep going with the boy, who proves to have valuable information. They discover the Chinese have been a model of a typical United States town. The Chinese are learning to adapt to an area where there is no electricity and they are learning to farm in these different conditions. The boy then convinces Tang to go and rescue his sister from the internment camp, but when he arrives the girl dies from tuberculosis. The team takes the young Korean boy back with them as they leave the country.
Back in America, Colonel Shi has dispatched Tai Cheng to oversee the operation with the Chinese engineering students. Harvath discovers that Cheng has been using various aliases and is connected with several murders in Nashville. An explosion at a storage facility in Nashville leads Harvath to canisters that will be floated above 6 areas in the U.S. and would detonate at the same time. These devices were EMP’s which would knock out all electricity. Harvath helps to track down all of the storage facilities and secures the devices.
Meanwhile, Cheng tries to evacuate the children and grandchildren of some high-ranking Chinese officials. He uses an intermediary in Key West to transport them to Cuba. He thinks it is a Chinese ally assisting them, but it turns out to be Harvath in disguise and Harvath dispatches of Cheng.
With the terror threat thwarted, the President forces some major concessions on the Chinese, which includes the elimination of the national debt. In the epilogue, Harvath tracks down Colonel Jiang Shi and kills him with a garrote wire, after Shi reads a message that says, “America bows to no one."