Sun Tzu’s Art of War, and the Philippines under Duterte Administration’s Allegiance to China

March 18, 2021 by Essay Writer


There was a period in China termed the Age of Warring States. This event was an age of great conflict and uncertainty as seven states fought for survival & control of China. For these states to win, they sought out any means of gaining an advantage over their opponents; those with knowledge on strategy & leadership was especially sought after. It was during this time that there arose a general from the state of Ch’i known as Sun Tzu. His ability to win victories for his warlord gained him fame and power.

To hand down the wisdom he had gained from his years of battles, Sun Tzu wrote a book, The Art of War, which became the classic work on strategy in China. His book, which details a complete philosophy on how to decisively defeat one’s opponent, has given guidance to military theorists and generals throughout the ages. In The Art of War, military readers found a holistic approach to strategy that was powerful and deep – it is truly a masterpiece on strategy. As the former U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell said, “I’ve read the Chinese classic The Art of War written by Sun Tzu. Sun Tzu has been studied for hundreds of years. He continues to give inspiration to soldiers and politicians. So every American soldier in the army knows of his works. We require our soldiers to read it.”

Today, Sun Tzu’s appeal has extended beyond the military realm into the world of business. Because business by definition deals with competition, Sun Tzu’s principles are ideally suited to competitive business situations. Because business, like warfare, is a contest of wills, dynamic and fast-paced, based on both morale and machines, and deals with the effective and efficient use of scarce resources, many business people across the globe have found value in Sun Tzu’s teachings.

Sun Tzu’s art of war can be summed up in this statement, “The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting” (Sun Tzu). According to Sun Tzu, it is better to finish a war instantaneously rather than prolonging a campaign for it will merit no one because the casualties will only increase. He also said that a warrior’s goal is to finish the war not to prolong it. Thus, Sun Tzu is against a prolonged war and introduces the basic principles of his art of war. Now before we go to the arguments I wished to present we must first know the principles of Sun Tzu’s Art of war.

Sun Tzu’s Art of War

First is the principle of knowing the weakness and strength. Sun Tzu put much emphasis on this principle. According to him, one must know the weakness and strength of the enemy and his own army. For if one knows the strength and weakness of the enemy, he can easily avoid the part where the enemy is strong and strike where the enemy is weak. In addition to that, one can prepare a counter attack to the enemy if he knows what the enemy will do. Sun Tzu’s cleverness in finishing the battle as soon as possible makes him a great and simple tactician. In the same manner, if one knows the strength of the enemy he will know when and not to engage and prepare his army well and strengthen his power if deems necessary.

Second is the principle of knowing the terrain. According to Sun Tzu, this principle is one of the most important principles in his art of war. According to him knowing the land, weather, and directions are basic necessities for war. Thus, if one is going to war he needs to know the basic elements which include these things. We must remember that during this period of time their weapons are bows and arrows and swords, not as accurate and precise as the guns. Thus, arrows are lighter and travel not as fast as the bullets therefore; winds can change its trajectory instantaneously. Thus, weather is important for war during this period. One must also remember that fire is also one of the weapons they used during this time. Thus, if one knows the flow of the wind they can used it for their advantage when using arrows with fires or simply arrows and fires. In addition to that, one must also know the terrain and used it for their advantage such as, the elevation of land, the positioning of one’s army and where to lay traps and alike. If one can fully master and use these things it can guarantee victory.

Third is the principle of knowing of offensive strategy, Sun Tzu’s art of war states that one must learn how to strike the enemy, after knowing the enemies strength and weaknesses and knowing the terrain, one can now plan how to attack. This principle serves as two roles in his art of war. If one is capable of knowing how to attack and how to strike the enemies weaknesses it will also serve as your basic defense for the neighboring kingdoms that plans to attack you. Knowing that your general is great at offensive strategies it will instill fear to neighboring countries, thus it can then lead to alliance in fear that you will attack them. With that, one can build larger forces together with alliances. In addition to that, Sun Tzu claims that there are 5 circumstances in which victory may be predicted: (1) he who knows when to fight and when not to fight will be victorious. (2) He who understands how to use both large and small forces will be victorious. (3) He whose ranks are united in purpose will be victorious. (4) He who is prepared and lies in wait for an enemy who is not, will be victorious. (5) Lastly, he whose general are able and not interfered by the sovereign will be victorious. Thus, Sun Tzu claims, “know thy enemy and know thyself; in a hundred battles you will never be defeated.” Here Sun Tzu there will a great general will order to attack. We can see how goal oriented the art of war of Sun Tzu is, regardless of the procedures he intends to finish the war in simple and fastest way.

Next is war as an art of deception. Together with all the above mention, war for Sun Tzu is a test of strategies. According to him, those who are able to strategize well are the only ones who can enjoy the victories of wars. For according to him, war is test of minds of the two leaders. Whether or not the enemy will eat the bait or not and whether or not the one is ready for the counter attack the enemy will bring. It’s all about deceptions. Thus, a country must have a great general and this general must at all cost not be interfered by the sovereign otherwise the chances of victory decreases.

Next is the artful use of the unexpected, for Sun Tzu, the general must also use surprise attacks where the enemy is incapable of defending itself for it will lead to a fast and simple victory. Thus, Sun Tzu mentioned that the general must use unexpected strategies for there lies the weaknesses of the enemies. Where they will catch the enemy off guard and steal victory for their country.

Next is the art of fighting well, this principle prioritizes the army’s capabilities and strength. A general cannot just observe the enemies forces he must also have a sharp understanding of how his armies fought. Thus, Sun Tzu also put emphasis on the fighting capabilities of the army, for what can a great general accomplish even though he has the greatest of the great strategies if he does not have the right men to carry the plans? Thus, both the general and the army must be in sync in order to create an opening and increase the possibility of victory.

Next is the art of being a great general. Now that everything is set, a country must also have a great general where he can encourage his men by his voice and lead them to victory. A great general must be followed at all times by his subordinates and are capable to lead a few or large forces. He must be able to put the confidence of his army on his shoulder and encourage their hearts to fight with him. He must also be able to put the faith of his comrades in him. Sun Tzu put emphasis on this principle, for if a country has all the necessary preparations to war but has no capable leaders to lead them it will ensure no victory and will lead to the downfall of a country.

Lastly, the art of spying, Sun Tzu also put emphasis on this principle, according to him, spying is a simple and yet a very effective tactic for war. One can take advantage by knowing where and when the enemy will attack and where their weakness is. Thus, Sun Tzu stated that one must not disregard this principle for above everything this principle ensures the possibility of victory like no other principles. It will also guarantee the general to have a tactic that will be simple and effective in obtaining victory.

Philippine-China Relationship

With that, we will now proceed to the main argument which is the problem of the allegiance of the Philippines under the Duterte administration to China. Some Filipinos say that it is good thing because at least the China is treating the Philippines as their friend, unlike the America. However, with the past events such as the west Philippine Sea and South China Sea dispute it does not seem that the China is treating the Philippines as their friend. For me it is more of harsher than the America. The navy of China threatened the fishermen of the Philippines that if they do not leave they will shoot at them. Is that what they call friends? Moreover, if we compare China’s treatment to Philippines and America’s treatment to the Philippines we can see the real goal of China is not to befriend the Philippines but use it only for its advantage. During Duterte’s campaign against the terrorist in Mindanao, the China offered to give the Philippines firearms for its campaign but then, we can also see during the latest incident of Xi Jinping’s visit in the Philippines how he shows superiority by walking in front of the president of the Philippines, which has never done by the other state leaders who visited the Philippines. Thus, we can consider that Xi Jinping’s help during those times was his strategy in obtaining the trust of the president of the Philippines. We shall then proceed to the arguments how I concluded that China’s hospitality towards the Philippines is a basic strategy to strengthen its power in the east.

First of all, before China helped the Philippines during its campaign of wiping out the terrorist in Mindanao, Duterte is against the American’s treatment to the Philippines such as, giving them second hand firearms which according to the president himself are much older than the firearms being used by the terrorist. And as an ally, the president cannot stand how they treat his country. This during the Second World War has fought with them side by side and put their lives on the line to help them conquer Japan. Thus, when Duterte tried to ask China for help, China thought that this is a very good opportunity to widen its territory by making a simple act of kindness such as offering them firearms. Here one can see how the China has checked the status of the Philippines which is slowly getting away from the grips of America. And as a rising superpower country it is necessary for them to have as many allies as possible for them to have the status of a superpower country. But then they cannot just start a war because this will lead to an expensive campaign to establish its superiority to other nations and will lead to a prolonged war. Thus, having one country by a simple kind of generosity sounds a great plan for China. He can gain the trust and friendship of the Philippines by donating a very small amount of Firearms. Afterwards, they decided to strengthen the bond between them and the Philippines by having few visits and meetings. However, it does not seem that the intention of China is to be friends with the Philippines. It seems that President Duterte is becoming inferior to this relationship. Now, we see the real intention of China, it is indeed not to be friends with the Philippines but to make the Philippines feel they are indebted to them. Thus, if the Philippines feel like China has helped them in a great deal they can easily manipulate the Philippines and little by little start to gain its territory.

As a Filipino, I feel like the American’s treatment to us is indeed wrong and not fitting to be called friends. However, never has an American tried to threatened one of its ally to get out of their territory otherwise they will shoot at them. With the relationship of the Philippines to China, I think it is much worse than the America’s treatment to the Philippines. I am not saying that we should be contented with it, but we cannot also accept this kind of relationship which is slowly becoming a property of China.

With that, we will now then look at the relativity of these actions to Sun Tzu’s art of war. First the China looks at the status of the Philippines which is slowly becoming anti-American. The same with Sun Tzu’s principle of knowing the enemy, China observes that the Philippines are desperate to win its campaign and America’s low tech firearms have caused the leader of the Philippines to lose its trust to them. Thus, asked China for help, and to gain the trust and confident of the Philippines with China, they helped the Philippines. In addition to that, I would like to emphasis how Xi’s visit to the Philippines is different compared to the other state leaders’ visit such as Prime Mister Abe of Japan, Papua New Guinea’s O’ Neill, Brunei’s Sultah Bolkiah, and Indonesia’s Widodo. In these four visits the Philippine Flag is the only flag that marches together with the 2 state leaders, the flag of the hosting country. However, during Xi’s visit to the Philippines it was the China’s flag that is marching with the state leaders. This emphasizes the supremacy of China to Philippines. “Many noticed the absence of the Presidential Standard – the flag that bears the official coat of arms of the President of the Philippines. It is present wherever the chief executive is present, especially during the review of guards” (Rappler, November 2018).

“To substitute a foreign flag is to very obviously relinquish symbol of command and substitute it with the symbol of sovereignty of another nation,” Quezon said. Thus, we can see that even Malacañang knew and accepts the superiority of China over its state given that the Malacañang issued this protocol. Given that, it is clear that China’s intention is not just to befriend the Philippines but there must be some hidden intentions that they helped the Philippines, if not to take it. According to reporter Nagy, this visit may be trying to “woo” Philippines away from the US; it is because as a fellow part of the ASEAN it will weaken the hold of US in the Southeast Asia and strengthen their hold on Scarborough shoal. However, according to Nagy said, ‘I do think China has made some gains within the region, but pulling Manila away from Washington is very, very difficult because of cultural issues, values and … the strong ties that both countries have had for more than 70 years,’ explaining that there are still joint training exercises between the Philippines and the U.S.

With that, we can see how China’s action up to now is slowly turning into a kind of political conquest that will later consume the Philippines and use it if deems necessary. Indeed, Sun Tzu’s principle of Victory as the goal and his supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting. And from here on we can say that China will be making a move faster as ever in order not to prolong the victory over this territory.


In conclusion to that, this paper claims that China’s friendly act towards the Philippines has something deeper intentions with it. And if the above statements is true, the Philippines must do something in order to protect its land and its allegiance to other ASEAN countries and United States. For centuries America has offered help to the Philippines that is why they lasted their relationship for more than 50 years. Thus, it is wrong and absolutely dishonoring their partner by making contracts to another third party which in this case is China without its partners consent.

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