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The conflict starts with the PLA moving into Almaty, Kazakhstan, while NATO forces attempt to remove them from the area. NATO then sabotages Chinese computers in order to cut off their communications in the area. NATO and PLA diplomats negotiate in an abandoned school guarded by both NATO and PLA snipers. However, the NATO diplomat is assassinated by an unmarked Mi-24 Hind that both NATO and China believe to be the other side's, spreading the conflict from the Almaty Region to the Mangystau region.
China then launches an attack on a NATO-held naval base and destroys two concrete bunkers, and three fast attack submarines. NATO then launches an counterattack on a Chinese-held oil rig and island; however, China withstands the attack. NATO sends a cargo ship disguised as a civilian ship filled with explosives to destroy the oil rig. China manages to blow up the explosives. NATO propaganda reveals that China destroyed a civilian ship in a random attack. The conflict then shifts back to the Almaty Region where NATO takes back a vital heliport, acquires intelligence at the area, destroys an entire Chinese Armored Brigade and blows up a bridge the Chinese used to ship in reinforcements. Chinese propaganda accuses NATO of destroying the "people's only escape route."
The PLA then launches a massive counterattack, attacking a NATO-held hill off the coast, and plants explosives on the last oil refinery in Kazakhstan. NATO then kills a PLA Regional Commander in the desert but then the Chinese take back three desert towns, and the defense of a train station.
The conflict then turns to the city of Quaraghandy, and the player is then given the option to continue playing the next two missions as either NATO or PLA.
- If the player chooses NATO, the player must defend a plaza, and then attack and plant explosives in the compound of Lieutenant Colonel Yuanhang Zhu, leader of the PLA. The commander attempts to fly away in a helicopter, and when shot down, the mission is complete.
- If the player chooses the PLA, they must destroy the generator powering the NATO commander, Lieutenant Colonel Robert Scott's compound. The commander attempts to fly away in a helicopter, and when shot down, the mission is complete.
It is then revealed near the end of the campaign that Commander 31, a leader of a terrorist organization known as The Burning Flag, hell-bent on world domination, was the one to instigate the war between NATO and China, as well as the one who sent the Mi-24 Hind to assassinate the NATO peace diplomat. The final mission starts with news reports of Commander 31 telling the world he plans to send three missiles at either the U.S. and Europe, or at China. The player then parachutes into the remote Burning Flag hideout, deactivates two of the missiles, and laser target designates the control tower Commander 31 had locked himself into. Upon Commander 31's death, the campaign is complete.
- The multiplayer for Battlefield 2: Modern Combat is set during the Sino-American War.