Francois Jullien is a good interpreter of Chinese thought for the west

Francois Jullien is a good interpreter of Chinese thought for the west. By KJ, SF Bay Area China Group, Nov 5 2022

He points out that Chinese strategy is different than the west. He suggests that the Chinese have a “strategy beyond stratagems” that results in an organic, natural “efficacy”.

In the West, strategy is tied to modeling (eidos) and goals (telos). In classical western thought, you make a model of reality, set your goals based on that model, and then use strategy and tactics to achieve it (reduce the distance). This also translates into the theory-praxis and means-ends problems common to Western philosophy, and the cultivation of cunning (“metis”) and craft (“techne”) to achieve it.

In China, this is different:

In short, instead of imposing our plan upon the world, we could rely on the potential inherent in the situation. From our traditional perspective, let us look back a long way and consider a proverb from the kingdom of Qi, cited by Mencius (himself a moralist), that seems, in its own way, to sum up this alternative possibility. (In the last two centuries of Chinese Antiquity, it seems to have been the culture of the country of Qi, as opposed to the more traditionalist culture of Lu, that concentrated particular interest on efficacy.) The proverb runs as follows: “However acute one’s intelligence may be, it is better to rely on the potential inherent in the situation”; “even with a mattock and a hoe to hand, it is better to wait for the moment of ripening” (MZ, II, A, 1). Here wisdom and strategy corne together: rather than depend on our tools, we should rely on the way that a process unfolds in order to attain the hoped-for result; rather than think of drawing up plans, we should learn to make the most of what is implied by the situation and whatever promise is held out by its evolution. For this potential is far more than-in fact something quite different from-just a collection of favorable circumstances. Caught up in the logic of a regulated evolution, it is driven to develop of its own accord and to “carry” us with it.

Two notions thus lie at the heart of ancient Chinese strategy, forming a pair: on the one hand, the notion of a situation or configuration (xing), as it develops and takes shape before our eyes (as a relation of forces); on the other hand, and counterbalancing this, the notion of poten’tial (shi’), which is implied by that situation and can be made to play in one’s favor. In the ancient military treatises (Sunzi, chap. 5, “Shi”), this is sometimes illustrated by the image of a mountain stream that, as it rushes along, is strong enough to carry boulders with it or by that of a crossbow drawn back and ready to discharge its arrow…. Once they had identified this potential, Chinese strategists were careful to make the most of its consequences. And those consequences call into question what can perhaps be called the humanist concept of efficacy. For what counts is no longer so much what we ourselves personally invest in the situation, which imposes itself on the world thanks to our efforts, but rather the objective conditioning that results from the situation: that is what I must exploit and count on, for it is enough, on its own, to determine success. All I have to do is allow it to play its part.

To go back to the martial arts analogy, in western fighting arts, the tactics are to impose your will on the other: dominate by controlling timing, distance, angles, force, position–a cartesian model of warfare, with complex strategies deployed to reach this goal.

In Chinese martial arts, it boils down to this: Listen and connect with the other, yourself, and the environment–this “ting jing” (listening power) orients you to allow you to perceive intention before it materializes into force, as well as the right moment to evade, neutralize, or return it.

Root–this allows you to connect and align to the greatest force there is on the planet: the planet. The person with the better relationship to gravity wins; gravity does the work, the artist simply flows within the patterning energy of the moment using the elastic forces spontaneously generated through alignment with this field.

According to the ancient treatises, the key to Chinese strategy is to rely on the inherent potential of the situation and to be carried along by it as it evolves. Right from the start, this rules out any idea of predetermining the course of events in accordance with a more or less definitive plan worked out in advance as an ideal to be realized. (Clausewitz calls this “a strategic plan”: it lays down when, where, and with what kind of armed force battle should be joined.)

A Chinese general, for his part, is careful not to impose upon the course of events any notion of his own of how things ought to be, since it is from the very evolution of the situation, which follows the course that it is logically bound to take, that he intends to profit. So if any operation is to be undertaken before engaging in battle (be it in the “ancestral temple” Of, as for us, “in committee”), it must be an operation not of planning but of “evaluation” (the concept of xiao) Of, more precisely, “assessment” (in the sense of a preliminary evaluation on the basis of a calculation: the concept of ji’). The general must start by making a painstaking study of the forces present. This will enable him to assess which factors are favorable to each of the two camps, for these are the factors from which victory will stem…

That is why the Chinese general projects and constructs nothing. Nor does he “deliberate” or need to choose (between equally possible means). This suggests that,. for him, there is not even an “end” set up in the distance as an ideal, but he continues to make the most of the situation as it unfolds (guided simply by whatever profit there is to be gained). More precisely, his entire strategy consists in allowing the situation to evolve in such a way that the effects result progressively of their own accord and cannot be avoided

Attorney JH of SF Bay Area China Group: One good example is the BRI. I doubt that China knew beforehand how it was going to pan out. China decided to do it because it wanted to avoid encirclement by the US along its the eastern seaboard, to reestablish the ancient overland silk route to Europe and to make full use of the immense capacity of infrastructure building developed in building up China.

But China moved along this direction in preparation for opportunities to arise . China proposed the high speed rail to uzbekistan in Central Asia years ago. This went nowhere due to the opposition of Russia. But things changed with the Ukraine war. China takes advantage of Russia ‘s change of heart due to the Ukraine war to build the railroad. In other words, China did all the preparations for the railroad with no guarantee of success and waited until the opportunity presented itself.

The investment agreement reached with the EU in 2021 was stalled. But now with Scholz’s recent visit, China may be able to achieve some of the goals it wants under the agreement. Perhaps the EU will find the courage to ratify the agreement.

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