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End Notes and Comments

All translations from the Chinese military writings are by the author; standard translations of philosophers, when not by the author, are cited below. References to the various military works, all published by Westview Press in the History and Warfare Series, are as follows: The Seven Military Classics , encompassing Sun-tzu’s Art of War, the Ssu-ma Fa, the Wu-tzu, T’ai Kung’s Six Secret Teachings, theWei Liao-tzu, theThree Strategies of Huang Shih-kung, and the Questions and Replies between T’ang T'ai-tsung and Li Wei-kung ; Sun-tzu’s Art of War, an expanded single text translation with extensive historical introduction and analysis; Sun Pin’s Military Methods, translation with historical introduction and analytical commentary; the Hundred Unorthodox Strategies; and the Complete Art of War. [A compendium of important passages from the Seven Military Classics and the Military Methods, topically categorized for convenience, entitled The Art of the Warrior, Shambhala, 1996.]

1. Kierman, Frank A. Jr., ed., Chinese Ways in Warfare (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1974).

2. Needham, Joseph, and Robin Yates, Science and Civilisation in China: Vol V, Part 6, Military Technology: Missiles and Sieges (Cambridge: The University Press, 1994). Vol V, Part 7 , Military Technology: The Gunpowder Epic , was previously published in 1986.

3. VIIB4. Also see VIIB1.

4. IVA14.

5. VIIB4

6. Note IA5.

7. “In the Spring and Autumn there are no righteous wars. Instances indeed there are of one war better than another. ‘Correction’ is when the supreme authority punishes its subjects by force of arms. Hostile states do not correct one another.” VIIB2 (Legge’s standard translation.) As a historical example Mencius was fond of citing the meteoric rise of King T’ang, founder of the Shang dynasty, who—when he overthrew the degenerate Hsia dynasty and undertook the task of pacifying the realm—was much murmured against by the surrounding oppressed peoples and minor states for not liberating them first, not unlike the captive peoples of the world looking hopefully toward the United States during WWII or the Communist reign.

His paradigm argument is encapsulated in a much cited reply prompted when King Hui inquired how to avenge an earlier loss of 700 kilometers of territory to the powerful state of Ch’in, the state that would eventually unify China under its first emperor:

With only a hundred square miles of territory one can become a true king. If a king implements benevolent government over the people, minimizes the employment of corporeal punishments and fines, keeps the taxes and impositions light, directs the people to plow deeply and weed thoroughly, and the strong and stalwart, during their leisure time, to become practiced in filiality, brotherly affection, loyalty, and trust, so that at home they will serve their fathers and elder brothers, and outside will serve their elders and superiors—then you will be able to have them make cudgels to strike Ch’in and Ch’u’s solidly armed, elite troops. (IA5, Sawyer translation)

While the concept of a well-ordered, instructed, and nurtured populace fundamentally underlies the view of all the military writers—and presumably the citizen soldier concept in the West—Mencius’ primitive troops would have stood little chance against Ch’in’s mighty warriors!

8. VIIB3. Legge. However, he also notes that “When King Wu punished Yin, he had 300 chariots of war and 3,000 elite guards.” (VIIB4)

9. They still retained enough fighting spirit to stage a major revolt just a few years thereafter, possible evidence of their tenacity. This battle is extensively discussed in the introductory material to our Seven Military Classics of Ancient China .

10. See page 37 ff.

11. James J. Y. Liu, The Chinese Knight-errant (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1967).

12. Fairbank clearly recognized but dismissed this issue. See “Varieties of the Chinese Military Experience” in Chinese Ways in Warfare , p. 4.

13. Such as The Roots of War , Antique Drums of War , On the Origins of War, the optimistic Ride of the Second Horseman, the Pursuit of Power, A History of Warfare , and of course Quincy Wright’s A Study of War .

14. While some states were startled when they came under attack, communications and logistics being confined to wagons and line-of-sight, such surprise was uncommonly achieved between states.

15. There are certainly implications for the current Asian situation, given that the PRC apparently has nuclear missiles targeted at California while the U.S. lacks a defensive umbrella.

16. The Chung-kuo Li-tai Chan-cheng-shih compiled and revised over the two decades spanning the mid 1950s to 1970s by the Chinese Military Academy in Taipei.

17. “Incendiary Attacks,” the Art of War .

18. In “Waging War” Sun-tzu states: “What motivates men to slay the enemy is anger, what stimulates them to seizes advantage from the enemy is material goods.”

19. “Hsing Shih Hsia,” Kuan-tzu . The passage states:

In antiquity the three Sage Kings and Five Hegemons were all rulers who profited All under Heaven. For example, Shen Nung and Yü. T’ang and Wu attacked the perverse, executed the brutal, and slew the chaotic in order to bring profit to the people. Thus although these enlightened kings differed in their actions, they equally profited the people.

20. “One who excels in employing the military does not seek the enemy’s territory but punishes their ruler. He establishes his righteousness and effects it in his conquests, he attains awesomeness and realizes it with benevolence.” “Yu Kuan,” Kuan-tzu .

21. According to the Ssu-ma Fa:

    Those who take advantage of weak states or encroach upon sparsely populated ones will have their borders reduced on all sides.
    Those who murder the Worthy or harm the people will be attacked and deposed.
    Those who are brutal within their state and encroach upon others outside it will be purged.
    Those whose fields turn wild and whose people scatter will be reduced.
    Those who rely on the strength of natural advantages to disobey orders will be invaded.
    Those who harm or kill their relatives will be rectified.
    Those who depose or slay their ruler will be exterminated.
    Those who oppose orders and resist the government will be isolated.
    Those who are chaotic and rebellious both within and without their borders, who act like animals, will be extinguished.

22. The Ssu-ma Fa states:

The Former Kings accorded with the Tao of Heaven; they established what was appropriate to Earth. They put the virtuous among the people into office, rectified names, and governed things. They established the states, defined the hierarchy of feudal positions, and apportioned emoluments according to rank. The feudal lords were pleased and embraced them. Those beyond the seas came to submit. Punishments were eliminated and the army rested. These were the attainments of Sagely Virtue.

Next came the Worthy Kings who ordered the rites, music, laws, and measures, and then created the five punishments, raising armored troops to chastise the unrighteous. They made inspection tours of the feudal lands, investigated the customs of the four quarters, assembled the feudal lords, and investigated differences. If any of the feudal lords had disobeyed orders; disordered the constant; turned his back on Virtue; or contravened the seasons of Heaven, endangering meritorious rulers, then they would publicize it among all the feudal lords, making it evident that he had committed an offense. They then announced it to August Heaven, and to the sun, moon, planets, and constellations. They prayed to the Gods of Earth, the spirits of the Four Seasons, mountains, rivers, and at the Great Altar of state. Then they offered sacrifice to the Former Kings. Only thereafter would the prime minister charge the army before the feudal lords saying “a certain state has acted contrary to the Tao. You will participate in the rectification campaign on such a year, month, and day. On that date the army will reach the offending state and assemble with the Son of Heaven to apply the punishment of rectification.”

The Ways by which the Kings and Hegemons governed the feudal lords were six: With territory they gave shape to the feudal lords. With government directives they pacified the feudal lords. With the rites and good faith they drew the feudal lords close to them. With men of wisdom and strength they pleased the feudal lords. Through strategists they constrained the feudal lords; with weapons and armor they forced the submission of the feudal lords.

By sharing misfortune with them, by sharing benefits with them, they united the feudal lords. They had the smaller states serve the larger ones in order to bring the feudal lords into harmony.

23. “Inferior Strategy.” The passage, from a late Warring States or early Han dynasty work entitled the Three Secret Teachings, clearly echoes Lao-tzu and the Taoist quietism associated with pacifism, but still expresses fundamental military thoughts and perspectives.

24. “Man’s Nature is Evil,” Hsün Tzu (Basic Writings of Mo Tzu, Hsün Tzu, and Han Fei Tzu, Burton Watson, trans. [New York: Columbia University Press, 1967]), pp. 157-8. Also see Hsün-tzu’s chapter entitled “A Discussion of Rites.”

25. “Debating Military Affairs,” Watson, pp. 68-69.

26. Chapter 46, D. C. Lau, trans., Tao Te Ching (Hong Kong: The Chinese University Press, 1982), pp. 67-9. The full passage runs: “When the way prevails in the empire, fleet-footed horses are relegated to plowing the fields; when the way does not prevail in the empire, war-horses breed on the border. There is no crime greater than having too many desires; There is no disaster greater than not being content; There is no misfortune greater than being covetous. Hence in being content, one will always have enough.”

27. Unfortunately, time constraints prohibit any exploration of the paradox of warrior monks and the samurai in Japan embracing Buddhism as their core philosophy.

28. This reverberates with echoes of “territoriality.” (We might also note the recent Greek-Turkish belligerency over some rocky island crags, and the PRC’s adamancy in asserting their claim to Taiwan, which 500 years ago was simply the refuge of pirates, and only brought under the sway of the Ch’ing after some exploitation by foreign powers, such as the Dutch and Portuguese, as well as Japanese occupation for the first half of this century.)

29. “Universal Love”, Mo Tzu (Basic Writings of Mo Tzu, Hsün Tzu, and Han Fei Tzu , Burton Watson, trans. [New York: Columbia University Press, 1967]), p. 39.

30. “Against Offensive Warfare”, Mo Tzu , Watson, pp. 50-1.

31. However, we should note that despite the rational thrust of this approach, unexpected results frequently arose when rulers changed commanders due to political whims—leading historically to the defeat of armies of 200,000 or more— or mounted campaigns out of overwhelming personal emotions, such as a desire for profit or revenge.

32. “The King’s Wings,” a chapter in the Six Secret Teachings, enumerates the staff and defines their functions.

33. An extensive list of equipment is also found in the chapter entitled “The Army’s Equipment” in the Six Secret Teachings.

34. “Against Offensive Warfare,” Mo Tzu , Watson, p. 53.

35. His justification as well for employing intelligence agents.

36. Watson, “Regulations of a King:” “He who lives by force must use his might to conquer the cities that other men guard and to defeat the soldiers that other men send forth to battle, and in doing so he inevitably inflicts great injury upon the people of other states. If he inflicts great injury upon them, they will inevitably hate him fiercely and will day by day grow more eager to fight against him. Moreover, he who uses his might to conquer the cities that other men guard and to defeat the soldiers that other men send forth to battle must inevitably inflict great injury upon his own people as well. If he inflicts great injury upon his own people, they will inevitably hate him fiercely and will day by day grow less eager to fight his battles. With the people of other states growing daily more eager to fight against him, and his own people growing daily less eager to fight in his defense, the ruler who relies upon strength will on the contrary be reduced to weakness. He acquires territory but loses the support of his people; his worries increase while his accomplishments dwindle. He finds himself with more and more cities to guard and less and less of the means to guard them with; thus in time the great state will on the contrary be stripped down in this way to insignificance. The other feudal lords never cease to eye him with hatred and to dream of revenge; never do they forget their enmity. They spy out his weak points and take advantage of his defects, so that he lives in constant peril.”

37. Chapter 30, Lau, p. 45-7 :

One who assists the ruler of men by means of the way does not intimidate the empire by show of arms. This is something which is liable to rebound.
Where troops have encamped
There will brambles grow;
In the wake of a mighty army
Bad harvests follow without fail.
One who is good aims only at bringing his campaign to a conclusion and dare not thereby intimidate. Bring it to a conclusion but do not boast; bring it to a conclusion but do not brag; bring it to a conclusion but do not be arrogant; bring it to a conclusion but only when there is no choice; bring it to a conclusion but do not intimidate.....

38. Chapter 31, Lau, p 47.

39. The state is impoverished by the army when it transports provisions far off. When provisions are transported far off, the hundred surnames are impoverished. Those in proximity to the army will sell their goods expensively. When goods are expensive, the hundred surnames' wealth will be exhausted. When their wealth is exhausted, they will be extremely hard-pressed to supply their village's military impositions. When their strength has been expended and their wealth depleted, then the houses in the central plains will be empty. The expenses of the hundred surnames will be some seven tenths of whatever they have. The ruler's irrecoverable expenditures—such as ruined chariots, exhausted horses, armor, helmets, arrows and crossbows, halberd-tipped and spear tipped large protective shields, strong oxen, and large wagons—will consume six-tenths of his resources.

40. “Inquiries,” the Kuan-tzu . The text states: “Now military affairs are dangerous matters. Being victorious at an inappropriate time or acquiring things unrighteously have never proven fortuitous. When defeat results from the failure of plans the state will be endangered. If one is extremely attentive to planning, the state will be preserved.” Sun Pin’s strategy in defeating Wei twice in succession was of course founded upon two states mutually debilitating each other, for he could then exploit the resulting weakness to forge easy victories.”

41. “Yu Kuan.”

42. “The Five Vermin,” Han Fei Tzu (Basic Writings of Mo Tzu, Hsün Tzu, and Han Fei Tzu , Burton Watson, trans. [New York: Columbia University Press, 1967]), pp. 115-6.

43. “Audience with King Wei,” the Military Methods.

44. However, an additional implication for present day forces is simply that the mindset and honed reactions of warriors is radically dissimilar to that of policemen, peace keepers, or civilians. Therefore, to dispatch soldiers for tasks other than fighting and expect that they will be able to override previously ingrained training, rationally analyze situations, and be able to refrain from instinctively killing potential enemies, as in Bosnia, Haiti, and Somalia, is absurd. Moreover, current research into sticky goo and other non-lethal measures, while humanitarianly oriented, clearly requires men with significantly different training, and entails the risk that the enemy, observing such unwillingness to inflict suffering, will mobilize every deceit and ruse possible, and simply slaughter such troops so deployed. (For further discussion, see: Lt. Col. M. N. Stanton, “What Price Sticky Foam,” Proceedings , January, 1996, pp. 58-60.)

45. Hsün-tzu said:

Fire and water possess energy but are without life. Grass and trees have life but no intelligence. Birds and beasts have intelligence but no sense of duty. Man possesses energy, life, intelligence, and, in addition, a sense of duty. Therefore he is the noblest being on earth. He is not as strong as the ox, nor as swift as the horse, and yet he makes the ox and the horse work for him. Why? Because he is able to organize himself in society and they are not. Why is he able to organize himself in society? Because he sets up hierarchical divisions. And how is he able to set up hierarchical divisions? Because he has sense of duty. If he employs this sense of duty to set up hierarchical divisions, then there will be harmony. Where there is harmony there will be unity; where there is unity there will be strength; and where there is strength there will be the power to conquer all things. Thus men can dwell in security in their houses and halls. The reason that men are able to harmonize their actions with the order of the seasons, utilize all things, and bring universal profit to the world is simply this: they have established hierarchical divisions and possess a sense of duty.

Men, once born, must organize themselves into a society. But if they form a society without hierarchical divisions, then there will be quarreling. Where there is quarreling, there will be chaos; where there is chaos, there will be fragmentation; and where there is fragmentation, men will find themselves too weak to conquer other beings. Thus they will be unable to dwell in security in their houses and halls. This is why I say that ritual principles must not be neglected even for a moment. (“Regulations of a King,” Hsün-tzu, Watson, pp. 45-6.)

46. Not just a theoretical position, China has long manifested a disdain for high casualty rates, and presently trumpets its willingness to sacrifice millions in an encounter with Taiwan and the United States. In contrast, the U.S., whether due to small families, disparagement of military values, the heritage of the Vietnam war, selfish intents or other reasons, is simply unwilling to sustain a battlefield commitment once casualties arise. The PRC’s obliviousness makes the possibility that they would risk nuclear retaliation for an ICBM attack on the U.S. West coast much greater than any rational being would imagine, and in consequence their threat of nuclear force more effective and fearsome than perhaps previously experienced during the decades of assured mutual destruction with the U.S.S.R.

47. “Against Confucians,” Watson, p 129.

48. Here we might ponder whether the presence of a Star Wars-type anti-missile defense, or strategic umbrella as it is now termed, would not lessen the threat of nuclear blackmail from the PRC and possibly other renegade states who acquire ICBM capabilities?

49. “Moderation in Funerals,” Watson, p. 71.

50. See “Planning Offensives” in the Art of War.

51. “The Regulations of a King,” Watson, pp. 50-4.

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Focus on


Minxin Pei asks, Is China Unstable?
“China... will face rising instability if the regime fails to undertake significant political reform in the next decade.”

Carl Fritz on China in 1945: One Man’s Experience:
“My unit was an air service group, and when the war ended members of the unit were widely scattered all over China.”

Thomas D. Grant in Taiwan Trouble:
“Taiwan had almost all the traits of a separate state, except that it never claimed to be a separate state.”

Joseph J. Borich in US-China Relations: Springtime Ice Beginning to Melt:
“Since mid-June, there have been several signs that bilateral relations may be gradually improving.”

 Elsewhere in this issue:
Recent commentary in American Diplomacy:

Walter A. McDougall, in Religion in Diplomatic History: "Americans have been prone to justify their behavior abroad in Protestant Christian terms, however much they may disagree about what constitutes right and wrong." [Summer 1999]

Amb. Ronald Palmer, assessing the South-east Asian case in Globalism vs. Economic Nationalism: "The 1997 financial crisis revealed problems that the surging growth of the go-go years had obscured, problems rooted in inward-looking development strategies designed for yesterday’s world." [Summer 1999]

Elvio Baldinelli on Latin American integration in Exitos y Retrocesos: "La principal explicación del poco éxito de esquemas como ALALC-ALADI y del Grupo Andino se encuentra en ... la fuerte oposición de intereses amparados por altísimas protecciones arancelarias." [Summer 1999]

 Elsewhere in this issue:

Mr. Sawyer earned degrees at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University. He has studied and taught in Taiwan and was an instructor at Boston University and the University of Maryland. His most recent book is The Tao of Spycraft: Intelligence Theory and Practice in Traditional China (Westview, 1998).

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