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The Philosophy of Chinese Military Culture

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The Philosophy of Chinese Military CultureShih vs. LiWILLIAM H. MOTT IVAND



William H. Mott IV and Jae Chang Kim, 2006. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews. First published in 2006 by PALGRAVE MACMILLAN 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010 and Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire, England RG21 6XS Companies and representatives throughout the world. PALGRAVE MACMILLAN is the global academic imprint of the Palgrave Macmillan division of St. Martins Press, LLC and of Palgrave Macmillan Ltd. Macmillan is a registered trademark in the United States, United Kingdom and other countries. Palgrave is a registered trademark in the European Union and other countries. ISBN 1403971870 Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Mott, William H. The philosophy of Chinese military culture : shih vs. li / William H. Mott IV and Jae Chang Kim. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 1403971870 1. Military art and scienceChinaPhilosophy. 2. China Civilization. I. Kim, Jae Chang. II. Title. U43.C6M68 2006 355.001dc22 2005054744

A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library. Design by Newgen Imaging Systems (P) Ltd., Chennai, India. First edition: April 2006 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 Printed in the United States of America.


List of Illustrations Acknowledgments Preface 1 Strategy and Culture 2 The Idea of Shih 3 Ancient Chinese Wars 4 The Chinese Civil War 5 The Korean War 6 The Sino-Indian War 7 The Sino-Soviet War 8 The Sino-Vietnamese War 9 Chinese Strategy: Shih-Strategy Glossary Notes Bibliography Index

vii ix x 1 15 45 73 103 131 161 185 215 233 241 279 295

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List of Illustrations

Tables2.1 2.2 2.3 3.1 3.2 4.1 4.2 4.3 5.1 6.1 7.1 8.1 9.1 Comparison of Shih and Li Indicators of Shih or Li in rulers national strategies Indicators of strategy based on intent or on forces Chronology: Liu BangXiang Yu Chronology: Liu BeiCao Cao Chronology: Chinas Civil War Sun Tzus 14 principles Maos eight rules Chronology: The Korean War ChronologySino-Indian War Chronology: Sino-Soviet War Chronology: Sino-Vietnamese War Comparison of strategic dimension of Shih or Li 32 36 44 52 60 76 79 91 106 146 172 200 227

Figures2.1 Shih-Strategy and Li-Strategy 2.2 Shih-Strategy and Li-Strategy in Wei-Chi game 34 35

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While it is certain that readers will find weaknesses or omissions in our perceptions, presentation, or conclusions, it is just as clear that they would have found many more without the kind and patient help, understanding, and support of our colleagues, families, and friends. We acknowledge the active contributions of Professors Richard Shultz, Robert Pfaltzgraff, and Alan Wachman who waded through various versions of each chapter. Professor Shultz raised perplexing questions of scholarship, focus, military science, and philosophy. Professor Pfaltzgraff kept the work within a proper theoretical context with his guidance and encouragement. Professor Wachman inspired the structure of the thesis and the theme of the work. We owe special gratitude to Dr. Byong-Moo Hwang who kindly expanded our understandings of Shih and Dr. Sung-pyo Hong who greatly assisted the research. Dr. John Endicotts concern in guiding General Kim to the Fletcher School brought us together in the idea of developing Shih as Chinas Strategic Culture. General Jack Galvins persistent encouragement as both friend and dean gave much needed support and confidence as we explored the implications of Chinas Shih-strategic uses of force for modern peoples. Over the years spent in developing the book, many colleagues military, Chinese, and academichave listened and argued with us, and have provided additional references and new ideas, as well as much-needed criticism and focus. Our families tolerated months of endless papers, reference books, notes, musings, Internet searches, conferences, and e-mail discussions as we tried to organize our impressions around some coherent meaning. Their understanding support through the genesis and difficult birth of this book was inspiring and essential. Our familiessons Ji Hyun and Seok Hyun Kim and William H. Mott V and daughters-in-law Hae Young Kim and Laurie Mottwere encouraging observers. To our patient, tolerant, and understanding wives, Donna and Jung Ja, in particular, we dedicate this book.


The people of ancient China existed in moral, psychological, and physical circumstances so different from our own that we can only imagine their thoughts and feelings. Qualities of conduct and thought in modern Chinas use of force, which Euro-Americans may find odd, anomalous, or novel, reappear in the alien surroundings of ancient China as familiar and permanent elements of Chinas strategic culture. Certain patterns of strategic thought and behavior, certain reactions to space and time, and certain approaches to the enemy and fate link the ancient past through the urgent present to the eternal future. The interval of nearly four millennia permits modern strategists to identify what is strategically significant in these patterns as Chinas strategic culture. In the recent, topical reaction to orthodox technological determinism and Euro-American pragmatism in war and strategy, many analysts have rediscovered cultural factors in explaining and conducting war. Although this interest is certainly not new, the current revival focuses explicitly around China, why Beijing uses force as it does, and how soon Chinas modernization will develop its uses of force into predictable patterns. In parallel, the recent trend of expeditionary interventionism reminds EuroAmerican strategists of the effects of diversityor asymmetryon military operations and the inherent challenges to defining, achieving, and preserving victory. Perhaps unconsciously, this cultural approach to strategic thinking construes global military experiences through Euro-American understandings of war, power, technology, and force primarily as instruments of decisive victory. Culture-based strategic thought comfortably finds the apogee of military art and science in Euro-American doctrines, force structures, and practices, while those of primitive, non-Western opponents are simply asymmetric or aberrant. Recognizing historical Euro-American military success, the cultural approach presumes and expects a weak opponent to recognize its weakness, learn the methods and doctrines of victory, and adopt them in strategies to increase its own power. Weakness forces an asymmetric opponent to develop an anti-strategy, anti-operational methods,



anti-tactics, and anti-weaponry to overcome its powerful opponents advantages. To achieve decisive victory, weaker commanders must learn from powerful commandersnot to adopt their methods, but to defeat them. Euro-American military experience suggests that in some way, technology is a dynamic, absolute force to which people must adapt doctrine, strategy, and force structure. A pragmatic emphasis on efficiency, costeffectiveness, and rationality comfortably subsumes strategic tasking in the self-evident truth that the military task is victory, which goes to the most powerful, best equipped, and best prepared battle force. Drawing on EuroAmerican cultural and spiritual values, cultural orthodoxy suffers from presupposing the imperative to decisive victory as a common standard against which all states canand shouldbe judged. Although every soldier recognizes the need to seize and develop every advantage that new weapons can bring, a narrow focus on forces and technology carries the risk of indifference to other factors. History has focused Chinas strategic cultural developmentlike those of several other culturesalong the path of weakness confronting strength. Understanding technology not as an absolute force but as an instrument of human will, Chinese strategists have historically drawn their power more from the people and from natureChinas culturethan from military superiority or technical prowess. When unable to achieve decisive battlefield victories over superior forces, commanders learned to defeat an enemys intent, frustrate the commanders will, erode the troops moral, and destroy a rulers determination. From positions of weakness, Chinese generals developed strategies, campaign plans, operational concepts, and tactics to win wars without the need for decisive victory in every battleto win without fighting. Rather than the orthodox, modern Euro-American forces-based strategies, Chinas ancient strategic culture developed strategies based on intentdefeating an enemys intent with the friendly intent. In recognizing cultural diversity and asymmetry, the cultural approach exposes the historical development of particular cultural patterns in using force. In contrast to the relatively brief history of modern Euro-American strategic thought, Chinas strategic culture has emerged over more than three millennia. A major hazard of any journey into ancient history is the uncertainty and contradiction in reports of dates, numbers, and facts especially motives, perceptions, and feelings. Dates are fundamental because they establish sequences of what precedes and what follows that allow some inferences not only of cause and effect but of the evolution of strategic thinking. Numbers are basic in indicating the significance of events to contemporary populations. The chronic exaggeration of ancient numbersarmies and casualtiesdoes not allow any understanding of ancient wa


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