Part 2 of Applying 36 Chinese Stratagems to Business

What’s more than 2,500 years old but still applied to strategy and planning for great success in business, politics, and international diplomacy to this day? Well, the “三十六计 (sān shí liù jì) 36 ancient Chinese strategies” and their theories, of course! If you read How to Apply 36 Chinese Stratagems to Business this will serve as its follow up to introduce you to even more ancient proverbs to give you the upperhand business affairs. Part 2 seeks to further assist you in comprehending Chinese business negotiation behavior via the lens of Chinese stratagems.

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Last time we discussed these 5 proverbs
●Create something from nothing (无中生有, wú zhōng shēng yǒu)

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

●Borrow a corpse to resurrect the soul (借尸还魂, jiè shī huán hún)

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

●Beat the grass to startle the snake (打草惊蛇, dǎ cǎo jīng shé)

Today’s proverbs, just as the last collection, still need to be taken in context of modern times. To reiterate, we live in the year 2022, and we all abide by a code of ethics, legislation, and social constructions that we must follow or things will not turn out so well in the end, no matter how business savvy the readings have us to believe we are. With that being said, let’s explore the next 5 Chinese stratagems.
●Pretend to take one path, while sneaking down another (明修栈道,暗渡陈仓, míng xiū zhàn dào, àn dù chén cāng)

●Watch the fires burn across rivers (隔岸观火, gé àn guān huǒ)

●Hide a knife behind a smile(笑里藏刀, xiào lǐ cáng dāo)

●Fool the heavens to cross the sea (瞒天过海, mán tiān guò hǎi)

●Loot a burning house (趁火打劫, chèn huǒ dǎ jié)

1. Pretend to Take One Path, While Sneaking Down Another (明修栈道,暗渡陈仓, míng xiū zhàn dào, àn dù chén cāng)

Use an evident, “normal” approach that’s sure and steady even if it takes a long time in order to deceive your competitor, then surprise them by taking a shortcut and sneaking up on them.

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See, the Chinese strategy advocates the superiority of avoiding pitched battles by employing indirect methods such as deception, duplicity, and other forms of deception to achieve psychological and material advantages over an opponent. Sun Tzu’s (1982) essays in his Art of War encapsulated these philosophical themes.

2. Watch the Fires Burn Across Rivers (隔岸观火, gé àn guān huǒ)

When you’re battling on the same battlefield as your opponents, keep an eye on the situation but hold off on joining the combat. Never enter the battle of “market leaders” if you are a “little player.” Wait until your opponents are fatigued before moving in and picking up the pieces.

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3. Hide a Knife Behind a Smile (笑里藏刀, xiào lǐ cáng dāo)

Maintain a neutral or even friendly demeanor rather than appearing competitive. To acquire your competitors’ trust, charm them and then strike when the time is right and act only after their guard is down.

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There are several reasons why Chinese strategy is important to our understanding of business negotiations. It’s first and foremost a game. The marketplace is a battleground, and the wisdom that guides a general in combat is the same wisdom that governs us all in our daily lives, including our business lives.

4. Fool the Heavens to Cross the Sea (瞒天过海, mán tiān guò hǎi)

It involves deceiving the competition in order to distract them and achieve one’s aim without their knowledge. This method is based on the idea that people take greater precautions when confronted with novel or stressful situations, but relax their guard in more familiar ones. Everyone expects a secret to be kept hidden, therefore if an important plan is carried out openly, it may go unnoticed. Using the ploy of a phony goal, conceal your genuine ambitions until they are met. Use a misleading technique to hide your true objectives and deceive your competitors. The objective is to appear “non-threatening” until your adversary has no choice but to respond. Hide the deepest secrets in the most obvious situations.

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5. Loot a burning house (趁火打劫, chèn huǒ dǎ jié)

This one is also known as “fish in troubled water”. When your competitor is weak (due to internal strife or other problems), attack mercilessly and completely destroy it to prevent future problems. Keep an eye out for companies who are having difficulties, and use their misfortune to your advantage. Before assaulting, you can foment discord in their ranks, feed them false information, or employ other tactics to divert their attention.

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This method is used in corporate takeovers and acquisitions, where companies are purchased when they are weak. As a result, the acquiring corporation receives a terrific deal. This is something that most loan sharks and pawn dealers are aware of. Another good example is purchasing repossessed properties. Thus, take advantage of (be opponent’s lack of preparedness and local knowledge.
As a result of China’s “open door” policy, Chinese business negotiation behavior has piqued entrepreneur’s interest in recent years and these stratagems have been used as a way to gain perspective. More and more researchers are studying what it means to do business using these tactics as applied to business ventures and they have interesting takeaways and perspectives. Have you consequently used one of these tactics in the past or do you plan to apply them to your business?

You May Want to Learn More :

“How to apply 36 Chinese stratagems to business”
“Today’s Laborers Are Laboring at Labors of Love”
”The Time Management Tips That Will Change Your Life”

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