The Art of War, and the “Asian Mind Game”

People used to wonder why the Japanese were crushing the US in business, and now they wonder why the Chinese are. So people would write cheesy cultural guidebooks about doing business in Asia. They still do.

A friend recommended this one, The Asian Mind Game, and I put it on my list. I’m not planning to do any business in Asia very soon. (I don’t like China very much, or excessive business travel.)

But I did have a problem come up recently with a person I thought was “acting Japanese”. Not telling the truth clearly, avoiding embarrassment by deflecting certain topics, leaving important decisions unmade. Hmm. Maybe this book could help my in my relationship with this person.

So I picked it up.

Holy smokes. I was very, very wrong. (Or right.)

It’s not a book about being nice and decoding subtle feelings. It’s a book about war. No-holds-barred, strangle the baby, burn the temple, mutilate yourself, and then turn to suicide type of war. All out war.

A type of war, apparently, that is taught to schoolchildren in China, Japan and Korea from the playground onward. A way of thinking and living life that is very different from the American, Christian, rules and rights-based idealism in which we conduct our lives.

War is about winning, and winning is about deception. You do whatever you need to do to win personally, and then for your group. When the handbag guy in Chinatown fleeces you, he is apparently doing it for the greater glory of the ancient Han people (and his pocket).

Here are a few notes from the book, probably inscrutable to you, but very useful to me when I return to this blog post on some occasion, somewhere, with a friend, chatting strategy. (Meanwhile, read Sun Tzu.)

36 Strategies of deception from the tradition of Art of War’s authors (e.g., Sun Tzu). I’ve combined them into 11 groups. (Apparently the canon groups them by sixes.)
– THICK FACE: deceive the sky; look weak; play the fool; knife under the smiling face; the hidden message; pretend to be a pig to eat the tiger; the empty city;
– EXPLOIT: attack their weak point; rob them during a fire
– DIVERT: be friendly when far; build the road, use the secret passage; in order to capture, one must be loose; surround wei to rescue zhao; display on the east, attack on the west;
– EXPOSE: disturb the snake by hitting the grass; provoke strong emotion
– DECAPITATE: remove the firewood from under the pot
– FOOL: create something from nothing; trade a brick for a jade; the golden cricket’s shell; steal the dragon, give the phoenix; mutilate one’s body;
– OPPORTUNITY: walk the sheep home
– PARANOIA: cross the river, burn the bridge
– SURVIVAL: escape; plum tree for the peach tree; borrow another’s body to return the soul
– JUDO: let another’s hand murder; watch the fire burning; make the enemy work while you wait; guest becomes the host; move the corpse to accuse others of murder;
– TEMPT: entice the tiger to leave the mountain; the beauty trap
– SACRIFICE: kill the rooster, to tame the monkey

Two strategies of the Thick Face, Black Heart:
– Saw off the arrow. Let the Inner Doctor remove the arrowhead.
– Patch up the wok. Make the crack bigger before you fix it.