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Sun Tzu


I really have to read up on the Chinese classics—the the ancient classics. In light of the recent pro-democracy Umbrella Movement, The Art of War seems a relevant book to begin the journey. Sun-Tzu (ca. 450-380 B.C.E.) had a successful career as a general and military planner in one or more of the kingdoms of the Warring States Period into which China dissolved in the waning centuries of the Chou Dynasty.

The Art of War is a collection of his teachings, put together by his disciples after his death. The book has been so highly esteemed, and so much imitated, as it has been throughout the history of traditional China. Under the inveterate influence of Confucius, Chinese social philosophy has downplayed the political role of warfare, and has insisted that military matters had to be kept firmly under control of a civil bureaucracy.

On reading this book, I see that the apparent paradox resolves itself; it becomes clear that Sun Tzu was more a philosopher than a strategist, one who taught that the best victory is attained without a battle. (Is this the direction Hong Kong Chief Executive CY Leung is pursuing?) Sun Tzu was a realist who recognized that warfare sometimes could not be avoided, and then must be pursued with the utmost vigor to a successful conclusion. While his talent lay in teaching rulers how to deploy their forces to maximum advantage, he never glories warfare. His willingness to engage in no-holds-barred combat, his consistent and close attention to detail, and the clarity of his style, has led in modern times to a new vogue as a handbook for business management .