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Ancient Wisdom For The New Year: The 36 Chinese Stratagems For Psychological Warfare

Discussion in 'Indian Military Doctrine' started by Wolfpack, Jul 9, 2017.

  1. Wolfpack

    Wolfpack Captain FULL MEMBER

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    Ancient Wisdom For The New Year: The 36 Chinese Stratagems For Psychological Warfare


    Davia Temin ,

    CONTRIBUTOR

    I write about reputation matters: crisis, leadership and strategy

    Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.


    2017 is the perfect time to learn some new leadership and coping strategies for the battles ahead -- in business, politics, war, and life.

    Last year we found out just how wrong we can be in our collective assumptions -- and how much we don't know about what others are thinking, or doing behind the scenes.

    Whether it is because the Internet allows us to only hear from people who think like we do; polls relying on "Big Data" can be wrong; we are convinced of the wisdom of the crowd, even when the crowd is being manipulated; or we are just plain gullible -- it is time to realize that leaders need to listen to and learn from those who think differently from them.

    In my coaching practice, I always advise leaders to listen hard to those who believe the exact opposite from what they believe, strategically, scientifically, politically, etc. This better enables them to not only understand, but fight more effectively when they must. And, a futurist friend of mine, Edie Weiner, always suggests that executives read regularly five publications a month that they would never think of reading otherwise -- from the NRA Journal (American Rifleman), to UN Reports on World Situations, to Cigar Aficionado!

    Part of it, of course, is about the importance of knowing one's enemy. But the other part is the importance of knowing that others feel and think completely differently from you, and that they feel their points of view are just as legitimate as you think yours are.


    And so it is with psychological warfare, and the art of winning.

    [​IMG]
    KIM HONG-JI/AFP/Getty Images

    One of my firm's newest team members, Beilin Ye, recently gave me for Christmas a gorgeous scroll of the 36 Chinese Stratagems for Psychological Warfare, thinking that these can come in very handy for the crisis management aspect of our work. Beilin tells me that these strategies are so famous in China that they permeate the culture: children are taught them early and they are referred to in nursery rhymes and soap operas, songs and storytelling. Some have said that they are part of the Chinese "collective unconscious."

    Recommended by Forbes


    An adjunct to Sun Tzu's The Art of War, the 36 Stratagems are all about misdirection, deceit, and dominance. Literally, they are 180 degrees opposite to the trustworthy behavior I have always preached. In fact, upon first reading them they made my skin crawl. BUT, then I realized that this compelling ancient leadership advice is exactly the kind of information we need to be aware of, think about, and plan for, whether we embrace it or not. Because our adversaries surely are doing so.

    The strategies are broken down into 6 categories:

    1. Stratagems When Commanding Superiority (Winning Strategies)

    2. Stratagems for Confrontation (Enemy Dealing Strategies)

    3. Stratagems for Attack (Attack Strategies)

    4. Stratagems for Confused Situations (Chaos Strategies)

    5. Stratagems for Gaining Ground (Proximate Strategies)

    6. Stratagems for Desperate Straits (Defeat Strategies)

    Their goals are to confuse the enemy in order to vanquish him. Not a win/win strategy is to be found among them. Rather these are strategies for the winner to take all -- at any cost.

    Some of the stratagems are familiar from their applications in sports and modern military strategy, while others are relatively unknown in the West. But in the East, they are applied to business and politics, as well as to war.

    So, here for your New Year's contemplation are the 36 Stratagems, with brief explanations and commentary -- with thanks to Beilin, Wikipedia, TVTropes and other sources I will credit at the end of the article:

    Stratagems When Commanding Superiority (Winning Strategies)

    1. Deceive the heavens and cross the ocean

    Mask your real goals with a fake goal until your aims are achieved. Tactically, this is known as an 'open feint': in front of everyone, you point west, when your goal is actually in the east. Or, as they say in basketball, fake left, go right...

    2. Besiege Wei to rescue Zhao

    When the enemy is too strong to be attacked directly, then attack something he holds dear. This will force the strong enemy to retreat in order to support his weakness. The name came from Qi forcing Wei's army to retreat from laying siege to Zhao's capital by laying siege to Wei's capital in 354-353BC.

    3. Kill With a Borrowed Knife

    Cause damage to the enemy by getting a third party to do the deed or causing an "enemy civil war.' Aka, find someone else to do your dirty work...

    4. Wait at leisure while the enemy labors

    Have your troops well-prepared for battle, at the same time that the enemy is rushing to fight against you, ideally resulting in their exhausted troops running into your fresh soldiers on the terms of your choosing. Martial your resources, while letting your enemy wear themselves out.

    5. Loot a Burning House

    The best time to attack an opponent is when they have their own problems to deal with. Though he who loots a burning house should be careful lest he become trapped inside. In other words, hit your enemy when he is down.

    6. Clamor in the East, then Attack in the West

    Get the enemy to focus his forces elsewhere, and then attack a position that would be weakly defended.

    Stratagems for Confrontation (Enemy Dealing Strategies)

    7. Create Something from Nothing

    Make somebody believe there was something substantial when there is in fact nothing, or vice versa.

    8. Openly Repair the Walkway, but Sneak through the passage of Chencang

    Classic misdirection: Deceive the enemy with an obvious approach that will take a very long time, while surprising him by taking a shortcut and sneaking up on him. Another interpretation is to distract the enemy with an "obvious" attempt at deception in order to conceal yet another ploy from their attention.

    9. Observe the Fire from the Opposite Shore, or Sit on the Mountain and Watch the Tigers Fight

    Delay entering the field of battle until all the other players have become exhausted fighting amongst themselves, then go in at full strength and pick up the pieces. (Movies about wars between superheroes tend to feature this strategy...)

    10. Hide a Knife behind a Smile

    Charm and ingratiate yourself to your enemy. When you have gained his trust, move against him in secret. (Time to rewatch Game of Thrones?)

    11. Sacrifice the Plum Tree to Preserve the Peach Tree

    Sacrifice short-term objectives in order to gain the long-term goal. Or, keep your eye on the prize.

    12. Take the Opportunity to Pilfer a Goat

    While carrying out your plans, be flexible enough to take advantage of any opportunity that presents itself, however small, and avail yourself of any profit, however slight. A rather different interpretation of nimbleness, and the ability to pivot!

    Stratagems for Attack (Attack Strategies)

    13. Beat the Grass to Startle the Snake

    Do something without aim, but make it so spectacular as to provoke a response of the enemy, thereby giving away his plans or position, or just to taunt him. Do something unusual, strange, and unexpected as this will arouse the enemy's suspicion and disrupt his thinking. Misdirection at its finest...sound familiar?

    14. Borrow a Corpse to Resurrect the Soul

    Take an institution, a technology, a method, or even an ideology that has been forgotten or discarded and appropriate it for your own purposes. Revive something from the past or bring to life old ideas, customs, or traditions and reinterpret them to your advantage.

    15. Lure the Tiger Down From the Mountain

    Lure an opponent away from his field of advantage, thus separating him from his source of strength. (Also, what Delilah did to Samson...)

    16. To Catch Something, First Set it Free

    Cornered prey will often mount a final desperate attack. To prevent this, you let the enemy believe he still has a chance for freedom. Letting an enemy go and observing their subsequent actions may also give you more information about their capabilities and intentions. (This concept of toying with your enemy is quite a take from the Sting song -- If you love somebody set them free...)

    17. Toss out a Brick to Obtain the Jade

    Bait someone by making him believe he gains something or just to make him react to it, and then obtain something valuable from him in return.

    18. To Defeat the Bandits, Capture Their Leader

    If the enemy's army is strong but is allied to the commander only by money or threats, then take aim at the leader; the rest of the army will disperse or come over to your side. If, however, they are allied to the leader through loyalty, then beware, the army can continue to fight on after his death out of vengeance. Lesson: Loyalty is powerful.

    Stratagems for Confused Situations (Chaos Strategies)

    19. Steal the Firewood from under the Pot

    Take out the leading argument or asset of your target, denying your enemy the resources needed to oppose you. (Today, the Internet and Social Media are good for that; so is fake news.)

    20. Stir up the Waters to catch a Fish

    Create confusion and use this confusion to further your own goals. (In chaos, it is easier to seize power.)

    21. Slough off the Cicada's Golden Shell

    Create an illusion to fit your goals and distract others. Mask yourself. Either leave one's distinctive traits behind, thus becoming inconspicuous, or masquerade as something or someone else. This strategy is mainly used to escape from enemy of superior strength. (Harry Potter was adept at this one...)


    22. Shut the Door to catch the Thief

    To capture or to deliver the final blow to your enemy, you must plan prudently. Do not rush into action. (I.e. dot all your i's; cross all your t's.)

    23. Befriend a Distant State while attacking a Neighbor

    When you are the strongest in one field, your greatest threat is from the second strongest in your field, not the strongest from another field, and thus the distant neighbor will make a good ally, however temporary. (Foreign state-sponsored hacking?)


    24. Obtain Safe Passage to conquer the state of Guo

    When two of your enemies are in conflict with one another, intervene on behalf of one of them. Alternatively when two other countries are at peace with one another, bribe or coerce one to help you conquer the other. At the very least get a promise that they will not intervene when you attack the third party. This will give you influence over both.

    Stratagems for Gaining Ground (Proximate Strategies)

    25. Replace the Beams with Rotten Timbers

    Disrupt the status quo to throw your enemy off balance: Disrupt the enemy's formations, interfere with their methods of operation, change the rules which they are used to following, go contrary to their standard training. In this way you remove the supporting pillar, the common link that makes a group of men an effective fighting force.

    26. Point at the Mulberry tree, while cursing the Locust

    To discipline, control, or warn others whose status or position excludes them from direct confrontation; use analogy and innuendo. Without directly naming names, those accused cannot retaliate without revealing their complicity. (Shame, blame, possibly start a Twitter war with their allies...)

    27. Feign Madness but Keep your Balance

    Hide behind the mask of a fool, a drunk, or a madman to create confusion about your intentions and motivations. Sound familiar?

    28. Lure them onto the Roof, then take away the Ladder

    With baits and deceptions, lure your enemy into treacherous terrain, then cut off his lines of communication and avenue of escape; to save himself, he must fight both your own forces and the elements of nature.

    29. Deck the Tree with False Blossoms

    Tying silk blossoms on a dead tree gives the illusion that the tree is healthy. Through the use of artifice and disguise, make something of no value appear valuable; of no threat appear dangerous; of no use appear useful.

    30. Exchange the roles of Host and Guest

    Usurp leadership in a situation where you are normally subordinate. Infiltrate your target. Initially, pretend to be a guest to be accepted, but develop from inside and become the owner later. (The worst house guest ever...)

    Stratagems for Desperate Straits (Defeat Strategies)

    31. The Beauty Trap

    (Feminists like me, be prepared -- you can despise this, but it does not mean it is not used by others as a stratagem.) Send your enemy beautiful women to cause discord within his camp. This strategy can work on three levels: First, the ruler becomes so enamored with the beauty that he neglects his duties and allows his vigilance to wane; second, other males at court will begin to display aggressive behavior that inflames minor differences hindering co-operation and destroying morale; third, other females at court, motivated by jealousy and envy, begin to plot intrigues, further exacerbating the situation.

    32. The Empty Fort Strategy

    When the enemy is superior in numbers and your situation is such that you expect to be overrun at any moment, then drop all pretense of military preparedness and act calmly so that the enemy will think you have hidden reserves. (Momma's bank account...)

    33. Let the Enemy's own spy sow discord in the Enemy camp

    Undermine your enemy's intelligence-gathering abilities by using his own spies against him or planting your own agents among his.

    34. Injure yourself to gain the Enemy's trust

    Pretending to be injured has two possible applications. In the first, the enemy is lulled into relaxing his guard since he no longer considers you to be an immediate threat. The second is a way of ingratiating yourself to your enemy by pretending the injury was caused by a mutual enemy. (Turning an enemy's compassion against him.)

    35. Chain Stratagems

    In important matters, one should use several stratagems applied simultaneously, or one after another as in a chain of stratagems. Keep different plans operating in an overall scheme; however, in this manner if any one strategy fails, then the chain breaks and the whole scheme fails. (Shock and awe...)

    36. If all else fails, Retreat

    Aka -- Run away to fight another day. When your side is losing, there are only three choices remaining: surrender, compromise, or escape. Surrender is complete defeat, compromise is half defeat, but escape is not defeat. As long as you are not defeated, you still have a chance. This is the most famous of the stratagems, immortalized in the form of a Chinese idiom: "Of the Thirty-Six Stratagems, fleeing is best"

    Whew -- taken in aggregate, these stratagems provide quite a cynical view of human interaction, don't they? But they are pragmatic, widely acknowledged in other cultures, and thus can teach us something we should know about.

    So, whether you choose to fight, flee, deceive, or revel in your successes this coming year, may the scales fall from your eyes, and may you learn from your enemies, in order to win in the end! Sigh.

    With thanks and credit to Beilin Ye, Wikipedia, and TVTropes. Also, to University of Hawaii Professor John Barkai's piece, The 36 Chinese Strategies Applied to Negotiation.

    https://www.forbes.com/sites/daviat...arfare-in-business-politics-war/#5d192bb62779
    ==========================================================================
    Chanakyas Artha shastra 2.0

    30. Exchange the roles of Host and Guest

    Usurp leadership in a situation where you are normally subordinate. Infiltrate your target. Initially, pretend to be a guest to be accepted, but develop from inside and become the owner later. (The worst house guest ever...)

    This we can see being played out in Pakistan by China using CPEC, just like British East India company did.

    3. Kill With a Borrowed Knife

    Cause damage to the enemy by getting a third party to do the deed or causing an "enemy civil war.' Aka, find someone else to do your dirty work...

    We can see China using Pakistan as proxy against India to keep India bogged down,just like they use North korea against Japan,South Korea and USA.
     
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  2. vstol jockey

    vstol jockey Colonel MILITARY STRATEGIST

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    That's what I had stated manytimes here. We need to take out these dogs to tackle China.
     
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  3. sangos

    sangos Lt. Colonel ELITE MEMBER

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  4. Dagger

    Dagger 2nd Lieutant FULL MEMBER

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    If this is permeated in their culture, Chinese society must suck to live in. No one can trust anybody with this as a culture.
    This is great if taught to leaders. Pretty dumb to teach it to a society as a culture. The average chinese never meets a foreigner. Inevitably end up using this deceit on his country men.
     
  5. vstol jockey

    vstol jockey Colonel MILITARY STRATEGIST

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    Did you guy notice, how this discourse does not have a solution to deal with an enemy who is superior and how Chanakaya Niti completely demolishes it.
     
  6. A_poster

    A_poster Captain FULL MEMBER

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    Globally, Chinese are famous for being soulless. Wonder if it is due to these kind of values being drilled into them?
     
    Last edited: Jul 10, 2017
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  7. Wolfpack

    Wolfpack Captain FULL MEMBER

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    They dont have compassion,they kill and eat everything,even animals,which show Human Emotions, Cat,dog,anything even their own fetus is being made into fetus soup.So you can guess.... :(
     
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