As the invasions of Xìngyùn and Ascension were presented, there does not seem to be any difference. Both invasion forces made their way to the ground, but the invasion of Xìngyùn failed, while the invasion of Ascension succeeded. What made them different?
The Communist Chinese invasion failed primarily because of poor intelligence. When the people of Xìngyùn cast their lot with the Capitalists, they expelled all known loyalists back to Earth. (More accurately, Moultrie freighter captains persuaded the rebels to let the loyalists leave.) These loyalists told a tale of a small band of rebels that had all the weapons and who had cowed a passive populace.
This understated the actual challenge facing the Communists. When Moultrie agents tried to negotiate based on real facts, the Communists laughed them off. The landing force was designed for a short action against a force that should be overwhelmed by light tanks and aerospace support.
We’ve seen what happened to the aerospace support. The armor didn’t fare much better. While the Xìngyùni didn’t have any armor of their own, they did have heavy industry built around their mines. The invaders lost most of their tanks to mobility kills and were unable to advance past their landing zone.
In contrast, Ascension was politically divided, and almost evenly split between the Independence Party and the Unity Party. Instead of invading outright, the Earthlings supported the formation of a fifth column over the course of a decade. When the time came, the invasion fleet was the capstone on a foundation of smuggled arms and exported propaganda.
The complexity of the plan allowed the nascent Moultrie spy network to figure out what was going on, but the Moultrons acted too slowly to intercept the invasion fleet. It was the final factor in the UN’s success, but lead to Moultrie’s aggressiveness in the decades that followed.