- "But know this, American... If you are really here for Raul Menendez... I have no need to kill you."
- — Tian Zhao to David "Section" Mason.
General Tian Zhao (Chinese: 赵天) is the tertiary antagonist (secondary depending on the player's actions) in Call of Duty: Black Ops II as the Chairman of the Strategic Defense Coalition (SDC), a Chinese-led East Asian military alliance that serves as America's primary strategic rival in the year 2025. Zhao was once an ally of Alex Mason in the Afghan war in the 1980s, but 40 years later, he became an uncontrollable megalomaniac, bent on having Russia join SDC and becoming the largest military force on the planet. Depending on the player's actions, he can be killed by a JSOC soldier in an operation led by Mason's son David.
Soviet War in Afghanistan
Zhao appeared as a Chinese agent and an ally of Alex Mason, Frank Woods, and Jason Hudson during the mission Old Wounds in Afghanistan in 1986. He, along with other Chinese soldiers and the C.I.A. agents, assisted the Mujahideen in defending against the Soviet attacks. After their leader, Mullah Rahmaan, revealed his true nature, Zhao was beaten up along with the C.I.A. agents and was left to die in the desert along with them. They were saved by two unknown travelers, one of whom was seen by Mason as Viktor Reznov.
Rise to power
Sometime after this, Zhao attained a high-ranking position within the Chinese government, becoming general and Chief of Staff of the Chinese Armed Forces. After Menendez launched a cyberattack on the Chinese Stock Market, China severed trade with the United States, fueling tension relating to the growing scarcity of the vital, primarily Chinese-controlled rare-earth element, Celerium. Zhao formed an alliance comprised of 11 countries known as the Strategic Defense Coalition, his ultimate goal being to unite the region in anticipation of a possible conflict with the West. Proven correct, China and the U.S. descended into the Second Cold War.
When Zhao was about to leave, David Mason and Harper escaped Anthem and they ran straight into him and his SDC troops. Zhao, who recognized David as Alex Mason's son, ordered his troops to stand down, stating that if David was attempting to kill Menendez, Zhao would have no reason to harm David.
Conquest of Asia
Zhao now set his sights on expanding his military empire. He then looked towards India. He saw that there was a U.S. Army base called FOB Spectre defending India. The base had many defense mechanisms that protected the rest of India from attack. On May 21st, he dispatched a large number of SDC troops to capture the base. The initial attack had wiped out many of the U.S. troops stationed there, and when the U.S. had heard of this, they sent a Strike Force to defend the base from the next wave of attack. Depending on the players actions, the SDC will either be repelled, or the SDC will invade and successfully take over India.
Zhao then sets his sights on Iran. He had some nuclear warheads pointed towards Iran aboard the SDC Navy, which was docked in Singapore. When the U.S. heard of this, they once again sent a Strike Force to destroy the freighter carrying the nukes. Depending on the players actions, Iran is either invaded or the invasion plans were cancelled. He saw the conflicts happening in Afghanistan. Raul Menendez was planning to attack the Afghanistan political leaders, and Zhao would take the chance to invade if they were killed. U.S. officials sent in another strike force to stop this. Depending on the players actions, he never invades or he successfully invaded and conquered Afghanistan. Zhao then started pressuring Russia into joining. After this, people decided that Zhao must be eliminated.
U.S. Command authorized Zhao's assassination in the final Strike Force Mission, "Dispatch", where three Navy SEALs shooting down his VTOL transport and two escorts. Zhao's remnant security forces attempted to defend the crash site, but failed to stop the door from being hacked open by the SEALs. As Zhao stumbled out of the smoke in his crashed VTOL, he was killed by a Navy SEAL, who shot him in the chest with his KAP-40 and took a picture of his body to command as confirmation. With Zhao's death, less hard-line Chinese leadership takes over and the SDC and JSOC end up forming an alliance against Raul Menendez.
Two outcomes will occur depending on Zhao's fate.
If Tian Zhao was not killed, then the SDC will invade Russia, ally with Menendez, and Strike Force will be failed. This will result in the Chinese fighters not being sent to save the Obama and it will result in the death of Chloe and/or Briggs.
If Tian Zhao was killed in "Dispatch", the SDC will be weakened, and join the U.S. against Menendez. This also will ensure the U.S.S. Obama's survival assuming that Briggs lived.
- Zhao and Briggs can be seen dancing together and high-fiving at the outro dance.
- Despite Zhao travelling to Pakistan, Pakistan doesn't seem to have any affiliation with the SDC.