Chinese statecraft, Three Kingdoms, Middle East and Ma Ying-Jeou's secret plot

I have attached 3 articles at the end of this post. But the focus is on the first one.
  1. Chapter 33, Romance of the Three Kingdom (in English for you to enjoy)
  2. Apple Daily Taiwan, editorial (Jun 13)
  3. Jiang Chunnan column, Sima Viewpoint, same day Apple Daily
Three Kingdoms

The wisdom of Sun Zi has been widely recognized by western scholar for already some time. Thomas P.M. Barnett even has "Less Clausewitz, more Sun Tzu." to end some of his posts. Romance of the Three Kingdom, however, is better known in as a classic literature than as a strategy book in the West. ROTK provides vivid illustrations of Sun Zi and other Chinese ancient statecrafts. True, "Clausewitz" style tactical maneuvers and tricks probably take up the bulk of the pages in ROTK. But the most brilliant character and the most brilliant plots in ROTK are about Sun Zi style strategy. ROTK unambiguously placed strategies above tactics.
  • Zhuge Liang, the most important character in the book, was extremely prudent in every single action he took. All his works are well planned, and of course, started from a big picture strategy
  • His most important plot (and ROTK's) was the celebrated Longzhong Dialogue when he first met with future patron and master Liu Bei, which was 100% strategy and Sun Zi style. Longzhong Dialogue's closest modern day analogue would be Nixon's China visit in 1972, which arguably was one of the key milestones that led to (sped up) the ending of the Cold War and collapse of the Soviet Empire. The China card freed US from the mess in Vietnam to focus its resources on an economic "war" with USSR, converting an enemy into an ally which later fought Vietnam in a border war. The US card allowed China to focus on economic development and eased the pressure on the 4000km border it shared with USSR. (It has been reported that Mao relied on two books in his campaign to fight KMT, Sun Zi and ROTK.)
Longzhong dialogue is the best illustration for Sun Zi, with the characteristics that distinguish brilliant strategy from layman's tactics
  • Start with the big picture,
  • Form a clear view of a (feasible) objective,
  • Focus on the root cause of the problem, not the miscellaneous symptoms...
  • To achieve maximum impact with minimum resources from self (recognizing that war can consume resources at unpredictable rate), and do not limit your solution in a box (e.g. the military box),
  • Leverage resources outside (the "cards") or even internal conflicts in your enemies;
  • Leverage other means of solution, convert potential obstacles into allies; leverage, leverage, leverage
For his insights parallel to this line Thomas Barnett was compared to Zhuge Liang (Crouching Dragon 卧龙, Zhuge's Taoist nickname) in Chinese media. Barnett's core-gap vision demonstrated his deep understanding of Sun Zi, and strategy.

The Middle East

Now let's get back on Chapter 33 of ROTK. In ROTK's view, Guo Jia is probably the only person who could have rivaled Zhuge Liang had him not died early. Guo Jia's vision is that he recognized that there are mutual distrust and internal conflict in their enemies, the Yuan's and Gongsun. If you supply them with a common threat, they had no other choice but unite. If instead, you stepped back and watched, the conflict would emerge sooner or later and they would consume themselves. In fact, Gongsun was not necessarily his enemy, he could be turned into an ally and he did become one. Pressing them only delayed their in-fighting. This is an excellent illustration of Sun Zi, "winning without sending a single soldier".

Sounds familiar? Al Qaeda is the Yuan's. Saddam (and the Saudi autocrats) is Gongsun. As a matter of fact, some rumours alleged that Zarqawi's fall was partly related to internal conflicts within the Iraqi resistance and Al Qaeda (or factions within Al Qaeda). Imagine, would such conflict emerge earlier had they not been provided with a common enemy at their front yard?

And where is the internal conflict between the democrats/reformers and mullahs? Was it the mullah's conspiracy to use nuclear project to unite internal support? Hasn't this trick of attracting foreign target to divert internal opposition been widely used mostly everywhere in the world?

(Personal note. I do not object the removal of Saddam per se. I thought he should have been removed in 1980 when he invaded Iran. But that is a rather different issue, since there are many better solutions after taking out Saddam in 2003)

Taiwan: Ma Ying-Jeou's secret plot

Jiang Chunnan's (Article 2) central idea is essentially that of Guo Jia. The 4 forces within DPP (Lu, You, Su, Hsieh) are deeply divided and each planning for its own future. Ma's (in fact, this is Soong's brainchild) recall motion only help to bind them together. It is, arguably, wiser for Ma to step back and observe.

The common wisdom in Taiwan (and most likely motive) for Ma is, to use vote of no-confidence and force a re-election of the House (LY). With such threat, Ma hopes DPP would yield. The problem is, Taiwanese (and mostly anywhere else as well) politicians are not allowed (by their radical supporters) to surrender. So, until the vote of no-confidence, perhaps Bian's power in DPP might consolidate instead.

However, there may be more. DPP is a boat tied to a huge burden (Bian's family scandal). If Bian sinks, DPP has to cut the rope to survive. But DPP can also bet on Bian not sinking, and emerge with less damage. (Article 3 argued DPP would be less harmed had it cut the rope asap). So the crux of the problem lies on this question, would the scandal escalate and there is no saving for Bian? Does Ma knows something that we do not? If so, Ma may have a secret plot. i.e. to trick DPP into tying itself tightly with Bian with a small storm. And sink both of them in a typhoon later as the ropes are too strong to be cut then. This seems far fetched (and perhaps not the Ma that we know), but given how the scandals have played out in the past 10 months, it is not unlikely.

Article 1: ROTK Chapter 33 extract:

107 When Cao Cao reached Yezhou, he rewarded those who had remonstrated with him against the expedition.
click to read more

108 He said, "I took some risk in going so far, but by good fortune I have succeeded. With the aid of Heaven I have secured victory. I could not be guided by your advice, but still they were counsels of safety, and therefore I reward you to prove my appreciation of advice and that hereafter you may not fear to speak your minds."
109 Adviser Guo Jia did not live to see the return of his lord. His coffin was placed on the bier in a hall of the government offices, and Cao Cao went thither to sacrifice to his manes.
110 Cao Cao mourned for him, crying, "Alas! Heaven has smitten me: Guo Jia is dead!"
111 Then turning to his officers he said, "You, gentlemen, are of the same age as myself, but he was very young to die. I needed him for the future generation, and unhappily he has been torn from me in the flower of his age. My heart and my bowels are torn with grief."
112 The servants of the late adviser presented his last testament, which they said his dying hand had written, and he had told them to say, "If the Prime Minister shall follow the advice given herein, then Liaodong will be secure."
113 Cao Cao opened the cover and read, nodding his head in agreement and uttering deep sighs. But no other person knew what was written therein.
114 Shortly after, Xiahou Dun at the head of a delegation presented a petition, saying, "For a long time the Governor of Liaodong, Gongsun Kang, has been contumacious, and it bodes ill for peace that the Yuan brothers have fled to him. Would it not be well to attack before they move against you?"
115 "I need not trouble your tiger courage, Sirs," said Cao Cao smiling. "Wait a few days and you will see the heads of our two enemies sent to me."
116 They could not believe it.
117 As has been related the two Yuan Xi and Yuan Shang escaped to the east with a few hundreds of horse. The Governor of Liaodong was a son of Gongsun Du the Warlike, the General of Han. Gongsun Kang was a native of Xiangping. When he heard that Yuan Xi and Yuan Shang were on their way to his territory, he called a council to decide upon his plan.
118 At the council Gongsun Gong rose, saying, "When Yuan Shao was alive, he nourished the plan of adding this territory to his own. Now his sons, homeless, with a broken army and no officers, are coming here. It seems to me like the dove stealing the magpie's nest. If we offer them shelter, they will assuredly intrigue against us. I advise that they be inveigled into the city, put to death, and their heads sent to Cao Cao, who will be most grateful to us."
119 Said the Governor Gongsun Kang, "I have one fear: Cao Cao will come against us. If so, it would be better to have the help of the Yuans against him."

120 "Then you can send spies to ascertain whether Cao Cao's army is preparing to attack us. If it is, then save the Yuans alive; if not, then follow my advice."
121 It was decided to wait till the spies came back.
122 In the meantime, Yuan Xi and Yuan Shang had taken counsel together as they approached Liaodong, saying, "Liaodong has a large army, strong enough to oppose Cao Cao. We will go thither and submit till we can slay the Governor and take possession. Then when we are strong enough, we will attack and recover our own land."
123 With these intentions they went into the city. They were received and lodged in the guests' quarters. But when they wished to see Gongsun Kang, he put them off with the excuse of indisposition.
124 However, before many days the spies returned with the news that Cao Cao's army was quiescent and there was no hint of any attack.
125 Then Gongsun Kang called Yuan Xi and Yuan Shang into his presence. But before they came he hid swordsmen and ax-men behind the arras in the hall. When the visitors came and had made their salutations, Gongsun Kang bade them be seated.
126 Now it was bitterly cold and on the couches where they were sitting were no coverings. So Yuan Shang said, "May we have cushions?"
127 The host said, "When your heads take that long, long journey, will there be any cushions?"
128 Before Yuan Shang could recover from his fright, Gongsun Kang shouted, "Why do you not begin?"
129 At this out rushed the assassins and the heads of the two brothers were cut off as they sat. Packed in a small wooden box they were sent to Cao Cao at Yezhou.

130 All this time Cao Cao had been calmly waiting. His impatient officers had petitioned in a body, saying, "Let's march to the capital to ward off Liu Biao's threat if we are not going to attack the east."
131 Cao Cao said, "I am waiting for the heads of the enemy. We will go as soon as the heads arrive."
132 In their secret hearts they laughed. But then, surely enough, messenger soon came from Liaodong bringing the heads. Then they were greatly surprised.
133 And when the messenger presented Gongsun Kang's letters, Cao Cao cried, "Just as Guo Jia said!"
134 He amply rewarded the messenger, and the Governor of Liaodong was made Lord of Xiangping and General of the Left Army. When the officers asked what had happened, Cao Cao told them what the late adviser had predicted. He read to them the dead officer's testament, which ran something like this:
135 "Yuan Xi and Yuan Shang are going to Liaodong. Illustrious Sir, you are on no account to attack, for Gongsun Kang has long lived in fear lest the Yuans should absorb his country. When they arrive, Gongsun Kang will hesitate. If you attack, he will save the Yuans to help him; if you wait, they will work against each other. This is evident."
136 The officers simply jumped with surprise to see how perfectly events had been foreseen. Then Cao Cao at the head of all his officers performed a grand sacrifice before the coffin of the wise Guo Jia. He had died at the age of thirty-eight, after eleven years of meritorious and wonderful service in wars.

137 When Heaven permitted Guo Jia's birth,
It made him ablest man on earth.
He knew by rote all histories,
From him war kept no mysteries.
Like Fan Li's, his plans were quite decisive,
As Chen Ping's, his strokes were most incisive.
Too soon he ran his earthly race,
Too soon the great beam fell from place.

三國演義 第三十三回 曹丕乘乱纳甄氏 郭嘉遗计定辽东

...操回至易州,重赏先曾谏者, 因谓众将曰:“孤前者乘危远征,侥幸成功。虽得胜,天所佑也,不可以为法。诸 君之谏,乃万安之计,是以相赏。后勿难言。”操到易州时,郭嘉已死数日,停柩 在公廨。操往祭之,大哭曰:“奉孝死,乃天丧吾也!”回顾众官曰:“诸君年齿 皆孤等辈,惟奉孝最少,吾欲托以后事,不期中年夭折,使吾心肠崩裂矣!”嘉之 左右,将嘉临死所封之书呈上,曰:“郭公临亡,亲笔书此,嘱曰:‘丞相若从书 中所言,辽东事定矣。’”操拆书视之,点头嗟叹,诸人皆不知其意。

次日,夏侯 dun引众人禀曰:“辽东太守公孙康久不宾服,今袁熙、袁尚又往投之,必为后患。 不如乘其未动,速往征之,辽东可得也。”操笑曰:“不烦诸公虎威,数日之后, 公孙康自送二袁之首至矣。”诸将皆不肯信。   

却说袁熙、袁尚引数千骑奔辽东。辽东太守公孙康,本襄平人,武威将军公孙 度之子也。当日知袁熙、袁尚来投,遂聚本部属官商议此事。公孙恭曰:“袁绍在 日,尝有吞辽东之心。今袁熙、袁尚兵败将亡,无处依栖,来此相投,是鸠夺鹊巢 之意也。若容纳之,后必相图;不如赚入城中杀之,献头与曹公,曹公必重待我。” 康曰:“只怕曹操引兵下辽东,又不如纳二袁使为我助。”恭曰:“可使人探听: 如曹兵来攻,则留二袁;如其不动,则杀二袁,送与曹公。”康从之,使人去探消 息。   

却说袁熙、袁尚至辽东,二袁密议曰:“辽东军数万骑,足可与曹操争衡。今 暂投之,后当杀公孙康而夺其地,养成气力而抗中原,可复河北也。”商议已定, 乃入见公孙康。康留于馆驿,只推有病,不即相见。不一日,细作回报:“曹操兵 屯易州,并无下辽东之意。”公孙康大喜,乃先伏刀斧手于壁衣中,使二袁入。相 见礼毕,命坐。时天气严寒,尚见床榻上无●褥,谓康曰:“愿铺坐席。”康目 言曰:“汝二人之头,将行万里,何席之有!”尚大惊。康叱曰:“左右何不下手!” 刀斧手拥出,就坐席上砍下二人之头,用木匣盛贮,使人送到易州来见曹操。时操 在易州,按兵不动。夏侯dun、张辽入禀曰:“如不下辽东,可回许都,恐刘表生心。” 操曰:“待二袁首级至,即便回兵。”众皆暗笑。

忽报辽东公孙康遣人送袁熙、袁 尚首级至,众皆大惊。使者呈上书信,操大笑曰:“不出奉孝之料!”重赏来使, 封公孙康为襄平侯、左将军。众官问曰:“何为不出奉孝之所料?”操遂出郭嘉书 以示之。书略曰:     
今闻袁熙、袁尚往投辽东,明公切不可加兵。公孙康久畏袁氏吞并,二袁 往投必疑。若以兵击之,必并力迎敌,急不可下;若缓之,公孙康、袁氏必自相图: 其势然也。
众皆踊跃称善。操引众官复设祭于郭嘉灵前。亡年三十八岁,从征伐十有一年,多 立奇勋。

Article 2: The Recall Motion Saved Ah Bian 罷免案救了阿扁



Article 3: To flock around a sinking boat not as good as dumping the burden 保駕護航不如集體逼退






Anonymous said...

Abian's corruption scandal is paving the way for Taiwan's reunification with China on Beijing's terms. By forcing the DPP to tie its interests with Abian more tightly, the destruction of the DPP and Taiwan identity will be insured. By the time this is over, Taiwan identity = stupid sloppy (chixiang nankan) corruption. By then, the Taiwanese will be happy with a watered down version of democracy as shown in your post.

The US will be stuck in the lurch, as it is poised to defend Taiwan from a Chinese invasion. But what happens if Taiwan falls into turmoil, or even civil war, and China comes in order to restore order? Has the Pentagon planned for that? Will US Marines be sent in to become police forces as in Iraq?

In the meantime, Japanese administrations will have to learn to live with the "Taiwan Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China".

Sun Bin said...

anon, slow down.:) that is a lot of if's. what you said is called butterfly effect.

the scandal is simply one of the many events in the course of political, (and democratic) development in taiwan. DPP forced itself into tying with the scandal. it doesn't have to.
furthermore, Chao is not convicted, yet. when he is convicted, we can borrow the Kim Dae-jung analogy is Korea. but Bian, even Chao, are both innocent at this point of time. so, IMO the recall is a little pre-mature, better focus on fair trial and investigation of teh scandals.

Anonymous said...

Wow...interesting connection. You just made me pull out my dusty translation of 3 Kingdoms and remember my plans to go through it this summer...