How to apply 36 Chinese stratagems to business

If you’ve ever read “The Art of War” you would also enjoy the “

三十六计 (Sān shí liù jì) 36 ancient Chinese strategies

” and their theories. Each proverb is accompanied by a brief explanation that explains how said proverb is applicable to military tactics. Its focus on the use of cunning and deception both on the battlefield and in court can be decoded to use in the business world as well. You can integrate them into your business strategy and planning, to outwit your competition.

Some interesting facts include that it complied during the most turbulent era of China’s history. The entire text of the stratagems consists of only 138 Chinese characters. Most of the expressions are written in four-character or three-character idioms. And even though they have been around for more than 2,500 years, these strategies continue to be applied with great success in business, politics, and international diplomacy today.

HSK 3 quiz

There have been business books written that employ every strategy and uses a brief Chinese historical anecdote to relate it back to the culture and how it applies.
Thus by analyzing the tactics you can learn how to be cunning about your professional affairs and keep your eye on the prize.
●Discover unconventional strategies and tactics, and adapt them for your business success.
●Implement specific strategies to free your thinking and gain a competitive edge.
●Stretch your current thinking to find new solutions to complex, fast-breaking situations.
●Unlock the wisdom of the Eastern mind.
Note that we all need to know not to take things literally. We live in 2021 and have a code of ethics, law, and social constructs that we must abide by, or else things will not work out favorably, in the end, no matter how business savvy the readings influence e us to be. With that being said, let’s look at a few of the best


Create something from nothing (无中生有, Wú zhōng shēng yǒu)

How would you interpret this? We could say, fake it till you make it. Or learn as you go. This is important when starting a business that you have been procrastinating starting. There is no better time than the present because you’ll never truly be ready so just begin and work out the details as you go. Be resourceful.

HSK 3 quiz

Kill with a borrowed knife (借刀杀人, Jiè dāo shā rén)

Use someone else’s resources or strengths to defeat your competitor. You can trick an ally into attacking your enemy, collaborate with a third party, or use the enemy’s own strength against him. The idea here is to cause damage to the enemy by getting a third party to do the deed.
Borrow a corpse to resurrect the soul (借尸还魂, Jiè shī huán hún)

Revive something from the past, and re-invigorate or re-use it for another purpose. People love nostalgia. This can be an old idea, an old technology, or a method that has been forgotten. Adapt them, you can even infuse them with modern technology and make them useful for your own purpose. Ideas or inventions which may have been too expensive or too risky before may become viable today with the application of new technology or changes in market economics.
Each one can be interpreted and used to get your headspace into business mode since business is war.

HSK 3 quiz

Take the opportunity to pilfer a goat (顺手牵羊, Shùn shǒu qiān yáng)

Be ready to exploit an opportunity when it presents itself. As you focus on the tasks and goals at hand, maintain a peripheral vision to look out for opportunities and threats along the way. Oftentimes, the window of opportunity is small and specific. Take advantage of any opportunity that presents itself, however small, and avail yourself of any profit, however slight. Likewise, look for your competitor’s mistakes and make them work for you. Look for niche markets that your competitor may have overlooked or neglected.
Beat the grass to startle the snake (打草惊蛇, Dǎ cǎo jīng shé)

Frighten and startle the enemy to see how they will react. Do something unusual or unexpected (“beating the grass”) to provoke a response from the enemy (“startle the snake”), so he gives away his plans or position, or is disoriented. For example, you can announce that you are launching a new product or marketing strategy and observe how your competitor reacts.
However, be cautious that this could trigger the fight-or-flight reaction in your competitors – they may retreat, freeze or fight back, so you must be ready if they do fight back. Conversely, an imprudent act will give your position or intentions away to the enemy.
The new year is the perfect time to learn some new leadership and coping strategies for the battles ahead — in business, politics, war, and life, and love. So now that you know a few tactics, make good use of them because your adversaries surely are doing so.

You May Want to Learn More :

“干杯(gānbēi)! “Bottoms Up” at the Qingdao International Beer Festival”
“It’s déjà vu “all over again”: How and when to use “再” and “又””
”The Best Laid 安排(ānpái) of Mice and Men”

HSK 1 quiz

Chinese Popular Words
Chinese Culture
General Chinese (Beginner Level) 
General Chinese (Intermediate Level) 

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top