Chapter 5: Chinese stratagem culture
It is common knowledge in China that many of the Chinese populace, in politics, business and social life, have thought and behaved, for centuries, with certain cultural characteristics that bear great resemblance to those of the military personnel who formulated strategies for warfare. This is a symptom of Chinese stratagem culture. For instance, Chinese people are known to be prone to distrusting others and taking an indirect approach to communication and employing competitive approaches such as ‘strategic detours’ and ‘misdirecting competitors’. It was observed as early as 1894 by an American missionary, Arthur Smith, that There are said to be two reasons why people do not trust one another: first, because they do not know one another, and second, because they do. The Chinese think that they have each of these reasons for mistrust, and they act accordingly. The entire Chinese imperial history, which is characterised by a pattern of one dynasty replacing another in a cyclical fashion, is one involving battles of stratagem, the winners of which ultimately became the occupiers of the Chinese throne. Harrison Salisbury, a renowned American journalist, who has documented China’s Long March, has summarised what happened between 16 October 1934 and 1 October 1949, when the People’s Republic of China was founded: China’s stage was filled with heroism, tragedy, intrigue, bloodletting, treachery, cheap opera, military genius, political guile, moral goals, spiritual objectives, and human hatred. Shakespeare could not have written such a story. It is not yet finished. Perhaps it never will be.
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