"Winning every battle is not the best strategy. Winning without a war is the best strategy.", said Sun Zi in the Art of War. But Sun Zi left it to us to discover the secrets in his book. A subsequent work by Gui Gu Zi who taught strategic alliance and persuasion tells us even more.The Sun Zi's Secrets on Winning without a Fight
1. Build Yourself Up such that Your Enemy perceived that You are stronger.
Sun Zi gives us 5 factors and 7 measures to evaluate our comparative advantages. If we do the needed calculation and evaluation based on the correct intelligence and finds that we are stronger and can win, then we can start a war if needed. But our enemy may have a different view of the comparative strengths and may also think he can win. So, we must, in the eyes of the enemy, to appear to be stronger, so that the enemy will know that if he starts a war, he may lose. Then, he will be willing to give in to our demands to prevent starting a war that he may lose more.
2. Other Means of Winning besides a War
In addition, Sun Zi says that war should be fought as a last resort after we have exhausted all other alternatives. Sun Zi lists them in order, "Strategy", "Alliances", "Negotiation", then "War in the opened fields", and the last and worst is "Attack Castles". We can add a few more ourselves, such as the PESTEL factors of politics, economic, social, technology, environment and legal (eg international laws, UN etc).
3. More than a Conqueror - Converting the Enemy to Friend
An even better strategy is to convert the enemy to become a friend. Then, you become a 'more than a conqueror." Why? A conqueror conquers you by force. You will always look for an opportunity to fight back. But if he wins your heart and become your friend, then you will not strike back. Could this be real? Yes. In the famous story of the Three Kingdoms, 孔明七纵孟获 KongMing Caught and Let Go MengHuo Seven Times. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meng_Huo Kong Ming captured and released the local leader seven times until he finally swore allegiance to Shu Han.
4. Strategic Alliance & Persuasion of Gui Gu Zi
The teaching of Gui Gu Zi on Strategic Alliance and Persuasion influenced many of his students to become prime ministers and commanders of the warrior states then. A famous story is how Su Qin (a student of Gui Gu Zi) persuaded the king of the State of Qi to return 10 cities back to the State of Yan. During the transition of power to a new king of Yan, Qi attacked Yan and took over ten cities. Later, State of Qin married their princess away to King of Yan for form alliance. Su Qin went to meet the King of Qi. He first congratulated the king for his growth in power but then said he was worried about him. Qi King asked him for the reason. Su Qin said that Yan has a marriage relationship with Qin and they have a strong alliance. It is only time that Qin and Yan will attack Qi. "Does your majesty think that you can overcome their combined forces?",asked Su Qin. King of Qi agreed and sent Su Qin back to Yan with the return of the ten cities to build a good relationship. So we can see that cities can be captured even without having any war. The power of strategic alliances with persuasion can be seen the many stories recorded in 战国策 "Records on the Warring States period".
Lim Liat (c) 23 Jan 2018
For more on Sun Zi and Gui Gu Zi, please see Sun Zi and Other Strategists