Deciphering Sun Tzu: How to Read The Art of War

Deciphering Sun Tzu: How to Read The Art of War

Derek M. C. Yuen

Language: English

Pages: 256

ISBN: 0199373515

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


As the People's Republic's seemingly inexorable rise to economic and military power continues, never has the need for a better grasp of Chinese strategic thought by the West been more acute. In Deciphering Sun Tzu, Derek Yuen seeks to reclaim for the reader the hidden contours and lost Chinese and Taoist contexts of Sun Tzu's renowned treatise The Art of War, a literary classic and arguably one of the most influential books ever written. He also explains its historical, philosophical, strategic, and cross-cultural significance.

His comprehensive analysis of Sun Tzu, based on a close reading of the Chinese sources, also reconstructs the philosophy, Taoist methodology and worldview that effectively form the cornerstones of Chinese strategic thinking, which are arguably as relevant today as at any moment in history.

Yuen's innovative reading and analysis of Sun Tzu within and from a Chinese context is a new way of approaching the strategic master's main concepts, which he compares with those of Clausewitz, Liddell-Hart and other Western strategists.

Deciphering Sun Tzu offers illuminating analysis and contextualization of The Art of War in a manner that has long been sought by Western readers and opens new means of getting to grips with Chinese strategic thought.

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action and are the best suited for the aim of enabling the weak to defeat the strong, it is hardly surprising that it is this set of measures with which the Taoists are most concerned. The use of the Tao of deception is clear in the following passage, which captures the essence of Taoist strategy: Should you want to contain something, you must deliberately let it expand. Should you want to weaken something, you must deliberately let it grow strong. Should you want to eliminate something, you must

“attacking plans” from “attacking alliances” is that the former can effectively make full use of the whole spectrum of war. It is the processes of “militarization of war” and “tacticization of strategy” that have blinded us from identifying and rediscovering the countless opportunities in the non-military spheres of war. If the whole spectrum of war can be utilized, the chance that a stratagem or strategy can come into effect without being noticed or checked will greatly increase. By the same

paradigms through which to understand security and strategy. It was within this context that the thought of Sun Tzu, as well as Chinese strategic thought more generally, began to grow in influence in the West. Basil H. Liddell Hart: Rediscovering Sun Tzu € “The Indirect Approach” Liddell Hart was one of the first in the West to rediscover Sun Tzu, and it is easy to see why he was so receptive to Sun Tzu’s ideas.3 Before he had even read Sun Tzu, Liddell Hart had formulated his “Expanding

that of Clausewitz, as well as much-needed principles and orientation of grand strategy (and peace), while Boyd learnt from the master that a much belated transformation of Western strategic thought from the nature of theory of war toward that of strategy was needed. Even so, their ways of dealing with Chinese/Eastern thought are fundamentally different, as are their degree of understanding about the subject. Despite that Liddell Hart is among the first Westerners to rediscover Sun Tzu, his

seems nothing is more direct than revisiting the notion of “respond flexibly to the enemy and thus create conditions for victory” in The Art of War. Following is the excerpt containing the notion: Now the army’s disposition of force (hsing) is like water. Water’s configuration (hsing) avoids heights and races downward. The army’s disposition of force (hsing) avoids the substantial and strikes the vacuous. Water configures (hsing) 161 DECIPHERING SUN TZU its flow in accord with the terrain;

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