Power and Empire is a Jack Ryan Series novel written by Marc Cameron. In the story, a shadowy group is trying to drive the Chinese president out of power by inciting conflict between China and the US.
A commercial ship from China, the Orion, sails for the USA. There is an explosion on the Orion as it nears its destination on the West Coast of the USA. One of the men on board manages to radio a call for help to the Coast Guard, and they scramble a rescue helicopter and boat. They manage to rescue most of the crew, but 10 men are missing or dead.
At the White House, President Jack Ryan, Sr. is meeting with his staff and discussing the current political climate between the USA and China. They receive the news about the shipwreck and contemplate how it may make matters worse.
A reporter from China by the name of Eddie Feng is in Texas. He is following up on a story he recently did on a subway bombing in China. A provocateur codenamed Coronet seems to be responsible, and Coronet also seems to have a connection with a sex trafficking ring in Texas. Feng spends a couple of hours with a young prostitute named Magdalena Rojas in the sex trafficking ring. While he is asleep, she looks through his things and steals a thumb drive he was carrying, thinking it may be valuable. Later she gives it to a friend and fellow prostitute named Blanca for safe keeping. Blanca is driven to a new location by a man in the trafficking ring and they get pulled over by a highway patrolman. After an altercation, the driver is dead and Blanca and the thumb drive go into police custody.
In China, President Zhao Chengzhi and some of his top advisors, including Foreign Minister Li, discuss and debate over how to respond to the explosion on board the Orion. Unbeknownst to Zhao, Li and others arranged for the explosion. They are trying to force Zhao out of power by creating conflict between China and the USA.
The operators at The Campus have been keeping track of Eddie Feng ever since he published the article about the subway bombing and found that he had recent credit card transactions in the United States. They have followed Feng to a strip club. Jack Ryan, Jr. and Domingo Chavez go inside to continue the surveillance. Meanwhile a federal team of investigators has been following up on Blanca and Feng’s thumb drive, and they show up at the strip club to arrest Feng.
Coronet pays a member of Abu Sayyaf to conduct an attack on an oil-drilling operation in Chad. In the attack, American servicemen who were leading training exercises in the area, come to assist and one is killed. Government analysts find evidence that the attack was indeed financed by China through a shell company.
Dominic Caruso uses his FBI credentials to introduce himself to Callahan, the woman in charge of the team that arrested Feng. She reluctantly agrees to let him participate in the investigation. When Callahan questions him, Feng talks about the story he has been working on and that the next person he was going to try to find to get more information from was a man named Naldo Cantu. He gives Cantu’s address to Callahan. He also says that someone that calls himself Matarife has Magdalena Rojas. Caruso gets the address from Callahan and passes it on to the Campus team. They scramble to arrive at the address before Callahan’s team. John Clark and Midas catch one of the men at the house and question him. He tells them what he knows about Matarife and Coronet. The name he has for Coronet is Vincent Chen, and he has a picture of him on his phone as well.
Callahan loans the thumb drive to Caruso. The Campus team does some investigating, comparing what they have with Chen’s picture, the thumb drive and other information they find on the internet. They find that Chen is booked on a flight to Buenos Aires, where an international meeting is taking place that Foreign Minister Li will be attending. They also find an address for Matarife. Clark decides that he and Caruso will stay and try to figure out what Chen has to do with the sex trafficking ring and sends the rest of the team to intercept Chen. Clark goes to Matarife’s house and surveils it.
In the field near Matarife’s house, Clark finds a man in the process of burying several dead girls and kills him. He then approaches the house and sneaks up on a woman who apparently is in charge of the other young girls being held captive there. He finds out from her that Magdalena Rojas was first abducted into the sex trafficking ring by Dorian Palmetto.
Coronet arranges for a group of Abu Sayyaf pirates to attack a private sailboat sailing near Indonesia. They corner the women on the boat but allow them to call for help. They are hoping to lure an American ship close enough to detonate a bomb and damage or destroy it. A navy ship is sent to investigate. The pirates detonate the bomb before the ship is close enough to sustain much damage.
At the restaurant in Buenos Aires where the international meeting is to take place, called Parrilla Aires Criollos, two women stealthily plant a bomb. While they are doing so, Ryan and Sherman enter to have a look around and get ready for surveillance on the restaurant. They see the women but pay little attention to them. Later, Ryan and Midas go to the hotel that Foreign Minister Li is supposed to be staying and get there in time to see Li arrive with his security detail. Ryan sees one of the women from the restaurant walking past the hotel. He then sees a Japanese woman who appears to be following the brunette. Ryan follows the women into the slums. A man with a machete starts to chase the Japanese woman. When the man with the machete and Ryan get into an altercation, the Japanese woman slips away.
The Campus team regroup and surveil the restaurant where Minister Li is meeting the other leaders. At the meeting in Padilla Aires Cripples, Minister Li uses a device in his pocket to enter the first part of the code that will activate the bomb that was planted. He then moves to the far end of the room and waits for his associate outside to enter the rest of the code. She does and the bomb detonates, making it look like someone was targeting Li for assassination. Ryan and Midas were positioned outside: they witness the bombing and the woman fleeing the scene. Ryan recognizes her as the other woman he noticed at the restaurant earlier. They follow her and see the Japanese woman that Ryan was following earlier is following her as well. Ryan and Midas lose track of the woman they were following, but they meet up with Chavez and Sherman and catch the Japanese woman. She tells them that her name is Yukiko, that she is with Japanese intelligence and that she has placed a bug at the home of one of Vincent Chen’s contacts nearby. She invites the Campus group to her apartment to listen in with her in case they overhear something important.
Clark tracks Dorian Palmetto to a hotel and breaks into Palmetto’s room. Palmetto tells him that Chen’s sister Lily is a business partner in the sex trafficking ring with a man named Zambrano, that Lily and Zambrano have Rojas, and where he might find Matarife.
In Buenos Aires, the Campus group overhears a conversation on Yukiko’s bug between Vincent Chen and Amanda Salazar, the woman who helped detonate the bomb at the restaurant, and learn that Chen is going to Japan. They all make plans to go.
Clark abducts Matarife at his hideout and takes him to a nearby industrial park. He finds an incinerator and puts Matarife in the loading chute. He interrogates Matarife, and Matarife tells him where Magdalena Rojas and Zambrano are, and about the guards at the place. When Matarife tries to sweet-talk Clark by offering to set him up with other sex slaves, Clark activates the machine, killing Matarife. Clark goes to Zambrano's place and surveils it. Out by the pool he sees Lily Chen with two girls waiting on her. The girls are chained to heavy chairs by their ankles. Clark eliminates a couple of the guards covertly, but is then discovered. As he gets in a gunfight with the guards, Lily Chen shoves one of the girls who is waiting on her, who happens to be Magdalena Rojas, into the pool. With the chair attached to her ankle, she sinks and starts to drown. Clark dives in to rescue her and is shot in the leg. Unbeknownst to Caruso, Callahan has looked through Caruso’s phone records and has figured out Clark's location. They show up just in time to fight off the rest of the guards and rescue Clark and Rojas.
In the East China Sea, a U.S. spy boat has an engine malfunction and is adrift, being pushed by a storm toward Chinese waters. President Ryan calls President Zhao and discusses the matter with him. Zhao agrees to not approach the boat unless/until it reaches Chinese waters.
Caruso gets a phone number from Lily Chen’s phone, which he suspects Vincent Chen is using. He passes it on to the other Campus operatives and they find that it has pinged at a hotel called the Golden Gai in Tokyo. The team heads there and begins looking around. At an outdoor cafe nearby they see Yukiko. Just as she comes to talk to them, Chen and his entourage exit a nearby building. Chen runs away and several of his henchmen attack Yukiko, Ryan and Midas. Yukiko, Ryan and Midas fight them off.
In spite of Zhao’s assurances, a Chinese ship moves to intercept the derelict spy boat. US forces arrive and rescue the crew of the ship while the ship sinks before the Chinese ship can get to it.
Ryan and Yukiko find Chen and get in a short firefight with him. Chen is wounded and they are not able to get much useful information from him before he dies. They do find a laptop that he had in his briefcase and they take it. In China, in what seems to be a random attack, some of President Zhao’s guards are shot and killed. Minister Li offers a few of his security staff to replace them and Zhao reluctantly accepts.
Biery hacks Chen’s laptop and finds that Chen received payments around the time of the Beijing subway bombing, the attack in Chad and the bombing in Argentina. It also looks like the payments were made in an obvious way such that the evidence would point back to President Zhao. Jack Ryan, Jr. and the others are there as President Zhao arrives for the summit with President Ryan. They recognize the men guarding President Zhao as the same men who were protecting Minister Li in Argentina. Ryan Jr. sends a text to Ryan Sr. who is meeting with President Zhao, saying there are several suspicious men on Zhao’s guard detail and to expect violence. Ryan Sr. shares the text with his bodyguard as well as Zhao and his bodyguard. Zhao’s bodyguard knows exactly who he is talking about. He quietly walks out of the room and shoots the guard that is waiting outside the door, then Ryan and Zhao are whisked to safety by their other guards. With that, the plot to sow distrust between President Ryan and Zhao comes to an end and Zhao’s enemies are exposed.