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Checkmate! Chinese-Style.

Posted by Niroo Kamdar


I was relaxed, sitting in an armchair from Bali; conversing with a friend of mine about quantum physics, philosophy, and spirituality. Suddenly from nowhere, he said, “Niroo, your mind runs like a perpetual- motion machine. Now and then, it needs rest. It is just working too damn hard.”

I was stunned! Of all my anatomical components, I am most proud of my mind. Yet, I have never used my mind to analyze flaws in my mind. That’s the moment when my quest began for the inner bliss and a quiet mind in the midst of chaotic world reigned by entropy. This has lead me to the Vipassana meditation (ref., an intense meditation as taught by Gautama Buddha, 2,500 years ago.

During this journey, I read a book, “The Quiet Mind”, by John C. Coleman. He was a CIA operative, stationed in the Far East. Circumstances forced him to leave CIA and start his journey in search of the quiet mind, and author this book. In the book, there is a very brief discussion on how the Chinese will dominate the world using Taoism philosophy. At the same time, I read writings about Sun Tzu, a Chinese General and one of the greatest war strategists. When I synthesized these two sources, it was a “Eureka!” moment of epiphany. The Chinese war philosophy is based on hundreds of years of the Chinese culture and civilization. It is neither imperialistic nor modeled after American or European philosophies.

Jewels of Chinese war philosophy:

  • Courtesy first, hostility second.
  • Turn opponent’s strengths to your advantage.
  • The shortest distance between two points is not a straight line but the path of least resistance.
  • The Russians and European Colonial powers enjoy a show of force; Chinese rely on practical psychology, persuasion, and perseverance.
  • Chairman Mao described the tactics for guerilla warfare, “enemy advances, we retreat; enemy retreats, we pursue; enemy encamps, we disturb; enemy tires out, we attack”.
  • If you know enemy and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles. If you do not know others but know yourself, you will win some and lose some. If you do not know others and yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle.
  • Be extremely subtle, even to the point of formlessness. Be extremely mysterious, even to the point of soundlessness.
  • For to win hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the acme of skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill.
  • All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when we are able to attack, we must seem unable; when we are using force, we must appear inactive; when we are near, we must appear far away; when we are far away, we must make our enemy believe we are near.

This synthesis suggests that the Chinese will dominate the world not by going to war or using its military might against Western world. It is their marketing strategy not the military strategy that will help them to rise to the top; not confrontation, but self-serving cooperation to win the supremacy in the constant-sum game.

  • Presidents from Nixon to Clinton viewed one billion Chinese as potential consumers of US goods. The Chinese imported manufacturing machineries and learned Western technologies. A decade later, those same billion people were Producers rather than Consumers, Exporters rather than Importers.
  • They learned the art of marketing from us, now they are marketing products to us. We are their customers. They are producers of the goods we need, and bankers to loan us money which we use to buy their products. We taught, to place the Customer at the center. They do it better than we did.
  • We fought a long, expensive war in Afghanistan where many American lives were lost. The Chinese are now building their infra-structure and in return getting substantial minerals mining rights.
  • We invent new technologies, so that they can produce goods with our technology. If we don’t give them technology or if they cannot buy our technology, they steal it using cyber-attacks.

The Full Circle: Increasing prosperity has increased Chinese appetite for the Western goods and services. China represents the most coveted market by most of the large American corporations.  Now, there is a delicate balance between China and the United States. We cannot use the hammer of Thor; we must use the sharp, precise scalpel of a plastic surgeon. We must integrate our knowledge estate of the strategic war strategies with Taoism and Sun Tzu to win the war; use their newly acquired strength against them.

In 1977, we screamed “Eureka” - engulfed in economic ecstasy, when we saw this enormous, untapped Chinese market. Fifty years later in 2027, they will scream, “Checkmate! Chinese-style”, unless we learn to adapt to the new reality of the world.