Tuesday, August 21, 2007

An Example of Chinese Strategy of Indirectness

Someone recently asked me to enter some interesting examples of the Chinese strategy mindset. The following example is a demostration of indirectness, a favorite approach from the Chinese strategy classics.

The recent alliance of Japan and India is an example of indirectness and collaboration. Both countries understands the notion of competing against China by themselves is suicide.

The objective of Japan is to assist India in building an infrastructure that would benefit the economic state of India and later assist Japan in their manufacturing competition against China.

This grand strategic move by Japan reminded me of a pair of strategem from a book titled "The 36 Strategems" (
Strategem #2 and Strategem #23).

Besiege Wèi to rescue Zhào
(Traditional Chinese:
圍魏救趙; Simplified Chinese: 围魏救赵; Pinyin: Wéi Wèi jiù Zhào)
  1. When the enemy is too strong to be attacked directly, then attack something he holds dear. Know that in all things he cannot be superior. Somewhere there is a gap in the armour, a weakness that can be attacked instead.

    The origins of this proverb is from the Warring States Period. The state of Wèi attacked Zhao and laid siege to its capital Handan. Zhào turned to for help, but the Qí general Sun Bin determined it would be unwise to meet the army of Wèi head on, so he instead attacked their capital at Daliang. The army of Wèi retreated in haste, and they were ambushed and defeated at the Battle of Guiling, with the Wèi general Pang Juan slain on the field.

    In the Second Punic War at the Battle of Zama Scipio Africanus was able to defeat Hannibal's army in Italy not by facing him in the field but by destroying his power base in Spain and menacing his home city of Carthage

Befriend a distant state while attacking a neighbour
(Traditional Chinese: 遠交近攻; Simplified Chinese: 远交近攻; Pinyin: Yuǎn jiāo jìn gōng)
  1. It is known that nations that border each other become enemies while nations separated by distance and obstacles make better allies. When you are the strongest in one field, your greatest threat is from the second strongest in your field, not the strongest from another field.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thirty-Six_Strategies


The question is "does Japan and India have a Tangible Vision to collaborate with?"

- More to come -

August 21, 2007
As Japan and India Forge Economic Ties, a Counterweight to China Is Seen

NEW DELHI, Aug. 20 When Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan touches down in India this week, it will be the highest-level step yet in what analysts say is a long-term effort to balance, if not contain, China’s growing economic and political might.

As Beijing’s influence in Asia and around the world has grown, their common interests have forced Tokyo and New Delhi to begin warming their historically chilly relationship and to start forging closer economic ties. The key issue facing the whole region is how to accommodate the rise of China, said Suman Bery, the director general of the National Council of Applied Economic Research, a New Delhi research group. Indian economists estimate that Japanese investment in India will reach $5.5 billion by 2011, compared with just $515 million in the 2006 fiscal year.

Mr. Abe is on his first trip to India. He and his Indian counterpart, Manmohan Singh, are expected to unveil public-private partnerships and new business initiatives. Leading the agenda will be a $100 billion infrastructure project to create a high-tech manufacturing and freight corridor between New Delhi, India’s capital, and Mumbai, its port and financial center. It would be the most expensive development project in India, and a third of the bill would be paid by Japanese public and private money. Mr. Abe and Mr. Singh are expected to announce that the two governments have reached formal agreement on the deal.

Japanese business leaders traveling with Mr. Abe will disclose similar deals this week on natural gas, transportation, currency swaps and Japanese investment in Indian educational projects, Indian officials said. Chief executives from Toyota, Mitsubishi, Canon, Hitachi and others have joined a new India-Japan business leader forum, which will meet for the first time on Wednesday in New Delhi.

Consultants are trying, so far in vain, to coin the catchphrase, like the Samurai and the Swami, that will sum up the nascent strategic economic relationship between the countries.

/// Catchphrases do not make a collaborative relationship work

Courting India has come slowly for the Japanese, who were highly critical of India’s surprise nuclear weapons test in 1998. While Japan is a large lender to India, until now it has not been a major investor or business partner. Instead, Japan has virtually sat on the sidelines while countries from Switzerland to Brazil cemented business alliances in India, where economic growth is about 9 percent a year.

Japan’s trade with India was about $6.5 billion in 2006, according to the Indian government about 4 percent of Japan’s trade with China. Whatever doubts Japan had for so long, now India is smelling like roses, said Jagdish N. Bhagwati, an economist and a professor at Columbia University and a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. They want to get in before it is too late.

For Japan, India is an attractive market, both for its growing consumer spending and cheap labor. Tokyo also has an interest in diversifying its Asian trading partners and reducing its dependence on China. As an increasingly confident China has flexed its muscle regionally and globally, anti-Chinese sentiment has been rising in Japan, as has anti-Japanese sentiment in China.

India is a much safer bet, in business terms, because it lacks the historical baggage, said Richard Tanter, professor of international relations at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in Australia.

Then there is the straightforward economics. Japanese and other automakers, for instance, view India as a potential manufacturing center that could offer lower labor costs than China. But India’s manufacturing and export potential are still crippled by an inability to move goods in and around the country.

The proposed New Delhi-Mumbai industrial corridor could address that problem. The nearly 1,500-kilometer corridor would include a high-speed freight line and nine 200-square-kilometer investment regions dedicated to industries like chemicals and engineering, as well as three ports and six airports.

Infrastructure projects like the industrial corridor are the kind of thing Japanese companies are particularly good at roads and harbors and ways to get into developing countries, Mr. Bhagwati said. Japanese companies were heavily involved in the construction of New Delhi’s clean, efficient subway system.

India, which desperately needs more power generation, could be a particularly fertile market for Toshiba, which bought the nuclear power plant manufacturer Westinghouse last year.

Any deals between India and Toshiba would be far in the future, though. India’s government is still deeply divided over a deal with the United States that allows India access to civilian nuclear technology, and Japan may not support the United States-India nuclear deal, given Tokyo’s aversion to nuclear proliferation.

Still, on Monday, Mr. Singh stressed India’s commitment to nuclear energy during the opening of a new research center in New Delhi, calling oil imports an unbearable burden.

The most successful India-Japan business partnership to date is a venture by the automakers Suzuki and Maruti, which has become one of India’s leading carmakers after a troubled start in the early 1980s. Sales of its reliable, zippy and cheap Marutis were up 17 percent in the quarter that ended in July from a year ago, to 1.6 million units.

Toyota’s India partnership, Toyota Kirloskar Motors, which dates back to 1999, makes about 60,000 units a year. But, last month Toyota executives said they expected the unit to produce 10 times its current capacity by 2015.

Culturally and economically, Japan and India remain far apart, a fact that government officials and economists said could complicate building a stronger relationship. Speaking Monday during a meeting in a New Delhi hotel to discuss the Japanese prime minister’s visit, Mr. Bery, the director of the New Delhi research group, said Japan’s manufacturing is state of the art, which has not been our strong suit.

Minutes later, the five-star hotel fell victim to one of New Delhi’s frequent power disruptions, the lights flickered out and the meeting carried on in the dark.

Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company



fyi- Since the 1960's, Sun Zi Art of War and other Chinese strategy classics became quite "popular read" for Japanese businessmen.

I always found it to be fun and
interesting to use the strategic approach (and/or intellectual property) of your competitor against the originator.


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