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Sun Tzu's 2,500-Year-Old 'Art of War' Guides China's Strategy Today

Thursday, 07 September 2006 12:00 AM

On June 19, the Daily of the Chinese People's Liberation Army reported that "in the past few days" the Seventh (!) Symposium on Sun Tzu's "Art of War" was held.

The report said: "Sun Tzu's ‘Art of War' advocates winning ‘without fighting.'"

Hitler, the last major Western European conqueror, and his top officers, some of whom had fought World War I for four years without winning, had possibly never read Sun Tzu's "Art of War." Many Westerners still regard themselves as supermen (the word coined by Nietzsche) because the Industrial Revolution mass-produced machines that mass-produced machine weapons like machine-guns, and that made the West for a while militarily (and hence, in many Western eyes, universally) superior to comical natives outside the West, such as Chinese, who valued individual artisanship and hated mass production.

It never occurred to Western supermen that when their ancestors pillaged the Roman Empire, "the Center of the World" (as China called itself) had existed for 4,000 years, and book printing had been invented in the Center of the World centuries before it appeared in Europe. Gunpowder, which initiated the era of firearms, was originally invented in China, not in any Western country.

In World War II, Hitler also fought, without winning, for more than four years. Sun Tzu's key word 25 centuries ago was strategy. In post-Roman Europe, the word was borrowed (from Greek) in 1810, and so Hitler knew it. But his fighting of World War II shows no trace of grand strategy and hence could end in nothing but his suicide.

To invade Russia, Hitler invaded Poland and thus ensured the Anglo-American bombing of Germany from England and then the invasion. In Russia, his troops just pushed eastward (Drung nach Osten) until they reached Moscow, which was undefended, since Stalin had been waiting for his Siberian and Far Eastern troops. Every Muscovite knew that even food store managers had fled from Moscow; Hitler and his top command did not. Why?

Once, it had been reported to Hitler that a member of the British Embassy wanted to spy for Germany. "Then he is a traitor!" shrilled Hitler in disgust. Hitler, who exterminated 12 million civilians, regarded himself as a noble Western warrior, a knight, representing the best of Western ("Aryan") chivalry.

From the online bookstore China Books (www.chinabooks.com), I bought a recent study entitled "The Strategic Advantage: Sun Zi and Western Approaches to War." I bought it because the study was written by five Chinese in China, edited by a Chinese, and published by New World Press in Beijing. I wanted to see how the Chinese press today treats Sun Tzu.

The Chinese authors, officially published in China, regard Sun Tzu as the founder of war strategy and the teacher of the Chinese military. Sun Tzu's "Art of War" contains a special chapter, "Value of Spies." It says that no one in the armed forces deserves higher rewards than spies. Still higher rewards are given to double spies.

The Western noble knight Hitler would have been scandalized by Sun Tzu's evaluation of spies. As a result of his ignorance of what was going on in Moscow, Hitler marked time in October and November of 1941 around undefended Moscow until Stalin's Siberian and Far Eastern troops arrived in December 1941 and routed Hitler's troops. He barely managed to turn their panicky flight into a retreat.

In 1942, Hitler continued his Drung nach Osten, but the Soviet troops secretly concentrated in superior numbers (owing again to Hitler's scorn for spies) and encircled Hitler's army, which surrendered with its commander in chief at the head. To show to all the foreign correspondents in Moscow the scope of Hitler's debacle, Hitler's captive army was marched through Moscow.

The rest was Hitler's Drung nach Westen, which was as devoid of any grand strategy as had been his Drung nach Osten and which ended in his suicide.

How was Sun Tzu's precept of winning "without fighting" to be complied with? What the Chinese dictators call "assassin's mace," and some Western scholars call "superweapons" (provided they even notice them), Sun Tzu named QI, the "extraordinary force."

In decades past, QI was created by science and technology. If the United States had had atom bombs already in 1941 and dropped them on Japan right after Pearl Harbor, that would have been Sun Tzu's classical winning "without fighting" –except for one detail.

Sun Tzu lived under Absolutism, a word that appeared in the English language only in 1830. But Absolutism, or whatever else it maybe called, existed in China for 25 centuries before Sun Tzu, and about as long after him, as well as from 1949 up to now. To wait for Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor or Germany's invasion of Poland would have seemed to Sun Tzu absurd or insane. Top-paid and greatly respected spies were to inform the United States about Japan's forthcoming attack on Pearl Harbor and Germany's invasion of Poland, and the United States was to QI Japan and Germany with atom bombs.

In the second half of the 19th century all kinds of Western conventions established the concept of "aggression" versus "defense" against it. The United States defended itself against Japan's aggression at Pearl Harbor, and "the democratic West" defended itself against Hitler's aggression.

What is known today as "democracy" would have horrified Sun Tzu as strategically absurd or insane, while Chinese Absolutism would have seemed to him absolutely necessary, in combination with QI, for "winning without fighting."

Therefore, when official Chinese authors of today write about Sun Tzu, they describe the Absolutism of the China of his times AND that of their China today. Surely Absolutism is the best form of government for war, with its secret development of QI, its deception, which Sun Tzu considered the essence of winning without fighting, and, last but not least, its espionage.

Incidentally, the scope of Chinese espionage in the United States today is unprecedented, for in the United States today there seem to be no spies, so despised by Hitler, but there are only millions of legal and illegal aliens, and if some of them are spies, the problem is to enable them to make a living in the United States, complete with social benefits.

As for American spies in China, there is a problem. Russian studies began to grow in the United States in the 1940s and the 1950s, and so in the 1970s enough Americans knew enough Russian (after all, an Indo-European language) to read Soviet propaganda publications and pass them to the U.S. government and U.S. Congress for espionage data.

Fewer "CIA analysts" know Chinese, and hence the CIA has not been testifying in Congress about the peacefulness of China, as it did about that of Russia (and thus gave me enough material for my satirical Commentary article, reprinted in more than 500 periodicals all over the West to their readers' bitter laughter).

I am told that in contrast to European countries, China was never engaged in conquests such as the conquest of America, mistaken for India by Columbus. This is true. Columbus was after gold and slaves, while China had paper money, and there was nothing she wanted to buy from other countries, which were perceived by China, with its silks and porcelains, as populated by paupers and savages. It was ridiculous to suppose that anyone wanted to topple the sophisticated Center of the World in order to establish a Western savage pauperland.

China's navy surpassed the pathetic flotilla of Columbus by hundreds of times, but it was used to protect China against Western adventurers like Columbus, out to conquer "India" in search of gold and slaves.

In the past two centuries, the correlation has changed. The West has invented – no, not silk or porcelain, but protection against Absolutism, and the Tiananmen Square movement demonstrated that for many Chinese this invention is more precious than that of silk or porcelain.

On the other hand, today's globalism is useful to the "sovereigns" (Sun Tzu's word) for the creation of QI. Western private enterprise, science and technology help the "sovereigns" of China to create QI, necessary for winning (globally) without fighting, or to use the phrase that appeared in China over ten centuries ago and is used by today's "sovereigns" of China, to create the "assassin's mace."

You can e-mail me at navlev@cloud9.net


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On June 19, the Daily of the Chinese People's Liberation Army reported that "in the past few days" the Seventh (!) Symposium on Sun Tzu's "Art of War" was held. The report said: "Sun Tzu's 'Art of War' advocates winning 'without fighting.'" Hitler, the last major...
Thursday, 07 September 2006 12:00 AM
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