David Lai, at the Army’s Strategic Studies Institute, published a thought-provoking paper in 2004 comparing the differences between Chinese and Western Strategic thinking to the differences between the Chinese game of Go and such Western games as chess, poker, and football. Learning From the Stones is now available online, and makes for very interesting reading.
With over 2,000 years of inÃ¯Â¬u201auence from Sun Tzu’s teaching, along with the inÃ¯Â¬u201auence of other signiÃ¯Â¬cant philosophical and military writings, the Chinese are particularly comfortable with viewing war and diplomacy in comprehensive and dialectic ways and acting accordingly. Indeed, many of these observations have become proverbial components of the Chinese way of war and diplomacy. The most notable ones are bing yi zha li (war is based on deception), shang-bing fa-mou (supreme importance in war is to attack the enemy’s strategy), qi-zheng xiang-sheng (mutual reproduction of regular and extraordinary forces and tactics), chu-qi zhi-sheng (win through unexpected moves), yin-di zhi-sheng (gain victory by varying one’s strategy and tactics according to the enemy’s situation), yi-rou ke-gang (use the soft and gentle to overcome the hard and strong), bishi ji-xu (stay clear of the enemy’s main force and strike at his weak point), yi-yu wei-zhi (to make the devious route the most direct), hou-fa zhi-ren (Ã¯Â¬ght back and gain the upper hand only after the enemy has initiated Ã¯Â¬ghting), sheng-dong ji-xi (make a feint to the east but attack in the west), and so on. All of these special Chinese four-character proverbs are strategic and dialectic in nature. All bear some character of Ã¯Â¬u201aowing water. This Chinese way of war and diplomacy is in striking difference to the Western way of war from ancient Greece to the United States today. In the Western tradition, there is a heavy emphasis on the use of force; the art of war is largely limited to the battleÃ¯Â¬elds; and the way to Ã¯Â¬ght is force on force.