Zhugeliang’s strategy and grand strategy

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The year before the battle of Chibi (AD 207), Liu Bei invited Zhugeliang out of the village. He was only twenty-six years old, twenty years younger than Liu Bei. Zhugeliang’s contribution to Liu Bei is well known. There is no need to elaborate here.

Chen Shou put Zhugeliang on an equal footing with Guan Zhong and Xiao He, which can be said to be very appropriate, because they are good ministers rather than good generals. When Liu Bei was alive, Zhugeliang’s contributions seemed to be in foreign affairs and internal affairs. As for the use of troops, Liu Bei often had his own ideas, did not necessarily respect his opinions, or even did not consult him. “Chengdu is flat, and Liang is the general of the military division. Mr. Zhang goes out to Liangchang town to guard Chengdu, and has enough food and soldiers.” It can be seen that Chen Shou’s comparison with Xiao He is very appropriate.

On the contrary, Liu Bei respected the opinion of FA Zheng. According to the biography of the first lord, he took Zhugeliang as his arm and FA Zheng as his adviser. The so-called adviser is the chief of staff in modern language. In the 23rd year of Jian’an (A.D. 217), Liu Bei accepted the suggestion of FA Zheng and entered Hanzhong. This battle in Hanzhong did not end until the 24th year of Jian’an. Liu Bei won a glorious victory, which is the source of the scene “Dingjun mountain” in Beijing opera. When Cao Cao learned that it was the plan of Dharma and righteousness, he once said, “I know that Xuande will be taught if he doesn’t do it.”

It’s a pity that FA Zheng died the following year. He was only 45 years old. Liu Bei has been crying for it for many days. Although Zhugeliang and FA Zheng are good, they are different. They take justice from each other. Liangmi Qizheng wisdom. When Liu Bei made up his mind to fight in the east to recover Guan Yu’s disgrace, many of his ministers refused to comply. Later, he was defeated and returned. Zhugeliang sighed and said, “if the law of filial piety is straight, then he can control the Lord and order him not to go east; if he goes East again, he will not be in danger.” It can be seen from this that Kongming also knew that Liu Bei was not so convinced of him as he was of rightness to the law (see the true biography of Pang Tong FA for the above).

Zhugeliang became prime minister after Liu Bei became emperor. He took over the State Administration officially after Liu Bei died. As for his personal command of the war, it was only limited to the stage of “six trips out of Qishan” (AD 227-234). Although restricted by various objective factors, it is true that he did not win the war. Therefore, Chen Shou’s comments are not groundless.

However, what kind of literature is there to show that Zhugeliang was really good at grand strategy, or that he did have superior grand strategy thought. In fact, without many examples, two well-known articles can fully demonstrate Zhugeliang’s great strategic talent and expertise.

The first one is Longzhong Dui, which is the record of Zhugeliang’s talk with Liu Bei about world affairs before he was a beginner. The second part is “the later teacher’s watch”, because Chen Shou only recorded the full text of “the former teacher’s watch” in the annals of the Three Kingdoms, and never mentioned “the later teacher’s watch”, which can only be found in peisongzhi’s notes.

In his dialogue with Liu Bei, Zhugeliang first used the example of Cao Cao’s victory over Yuan Shao to illustrate the basic principle that man is the man and success depends on man (strategy). Then the situation is analyzed and four conclusions are drawn:

I. do not compete with Cao Cao. II. Jiangdong can help but not plan. III. Jingzhou is a country of martial arts and its master cannot defend it. IV. Liu Zhang in Yizhou was weak, and intelligent people thought of the wise king.

Based on the above analysis, the strategy Liu Bei should adopt is obvious:

I. seizing Jingyi and Yizhou as the overlord base. II. Use domestic and foreign affairs to consolidate the power base. III. as the world changed, they began to launch a pincer attack in order to revive the Han Dynasty in one fell swoop.

Obviously, what Zhugeliang proposed was a long-range plan. Naturally, there was no predetermined timetable. He attached importance to the overall rather than the details, and for the future rather than the present. It was entirely logical that his proposed action was divided into three stages, and his central idea was “uniting Wu against Wei”. Among the three power groups, Cao Cao was the most powerful and Liu Bei was the least powerful. If Liu Bei wanted to defeat Cao Cao, he must form an alliance with Sun Quan. This is a natural principle. Therefore, before Zhugeliang came out of the mountain, he had already confirmed “uniting Wu” as the main axis of his grand strategic plan. The second stage, which Zhugeliang attached the most importance to in the whole plan, must be able to “tie up Sun Quan externally and cultivate political theory internally”, and then Liu Bei could be in an invincible position.

Then he reached the third stage, and Zhugeliang made another assumption: “the world has changed.” This is a very important point. Only when the world changes can the final offensive be launched. However, if there is no change, you can not act rashly, but can only bear it.

Zhugeliang came out of the mountain in the 12th year of Jian’an, and the battle of Chibi took place the following year. After the war, he was given the opportunity to gradually realize the first stage of his grand strategic plan. However, after “crossing Jingyi”, the relationship between Wu and Shu had deteriorated day by day. Therefore, the development of the situation was like the end of the book “after leaving school”: “Wu even violated the league, Guan Yu was destroyed, Zigui fell, and Cao Pi became emperor.” Zhugeliang’s original grand strategic conception in Longzhong Dui was no longer possible to be realized.

After the death of Liu Bei, Zhugeliang officially took power (223 A.D.) and died in the twelfth year of the reign of emperor Jianxing (234 A.D.). Therefore, these eleven years should be called the “Zhugeliang era”. He was in a very bad situation and took over a fragile and dangerous country. In terms of diplomacy, it is completely isolated. There are many internal crises. Separatists have emerged, and there are Nanman rebellions in the border region. Therefore, as Zhugeliang said, “this autumn is also a time of crisis.”

Faced with such an environment, what grand strategy should Zhugeliang adopt? He made two decisions: (1) uniting Wu to control Wei; (2) Take offense as defense.

“Uniting Wu” was originally the basic concept of Longzhong Dui, which Zhugeliang firmly believed. In the past, due to various reasons, it was not implemented, which led to adverse consequences. Now, if we talk about the old tune of LianWu again, of course, we will encounter more difficulties. However, Zhugeliang’s decisiveness and wisdom can be fully demonstrated by his resolute adoption of the policy of alliance with Wu. Zhugeliang’s alliance with Wu was quite successful. Since he came to power, the two sides have been able to cooperate with each other to relieve the worries of Shu. Even after his death, this policy can continue to be implemented until the death of Shu.

“Taking attack as defense” is a new concept that appeared after Zhugeliang came into power. It has caused a lot of controversy and opposition. It is really puzzling why Zhugeliang insisted on taking action against Wei. In Longzhong Dui, in particular, he believed that the offensive could only be launched after “the world has changed”. Now that the world has not changed, and “Yizhou is tired”, why he has to mobilize the public? It is really a little unpredictable about Kongming’s magic trick.

If Zhugeliang’s aim was only to defend, it would seem unnecessary to launch repeated offensives. Because Yizhou is a dangerous fortress, it can achieve this goal as long as we stick to it, so we can save more resources to strengthen our national strength. On the contrary, with Zhugeliang’s strategic cultivation, we should know that it is a foregone conclusion that the world is divided into three parts. If there is no change in the world, it is impossible to recover the Central Plains just by relying on one state. Therefore, his actions seem to have violated his own principles.

At the beginning of Zhugeliang’s reign, he first sorted out his internal affairs and calmed down the Nanman. It was not until the fifth year of Jianxing that he led his troops into Hanzhong and began to attack Wei. The next spring, the war officially began. At first, the progress was quite smooth. The main reason was that the upper and lower levels of the state of Wei thought that “Liu Bei was the only one in Sichuan. He died and was silent for several years. He had little preparation, but when he died, the government and the public were afraid. Longyou and Qishan were especially afraid, so the three counties should be lit at the same time”. However, Zhugeliang was defeated by Jieting because he mistakenly used Ma Su as the avantgarde commander (supervising the troops in front). This defeat was a serious blow to Zhugeliang and gave the domestic anti war factions the opportunity to attack him wantonly. Zhugeliang had to kill Ma Su and demote himself to calm the public anger. However, Zhugeliang did not change his determination. At the end of the year (or the beginning of the next year), he launched a second offensive. Before he left, he published a “demonstration of the future”. His purpose was to make a general defense of his offensive strategy and explain the basic reasons why Shu must take the offensive as the defense at this time.

I. taking Gaozu as an example, it shows that like Gaozu, he still has to “protect himself from danger and be safe after danger”. Therefore, how can we hope to “win by long-term strategy and settle down in the world”? II. Taking Liu Yao and Wang Lang as examples, it shows that “Sun CE became a big power and merged with the east of the Yangtze River” because “there is no war this year and no levy next year”. III. taking Cao Cao as an example, it shows that although Cao Cao was good at using troops, he still encountered many crises and began to “set his mind for a while”. He asked himself that he was inferior to Cao Cao Cao. How can he “set his mind without danger”? IV. Cao Cao is still taken as an example to illustrate that there are often mistakes in his calculations, and then it is pointed out that “the first emperor always regarded Cao Cao as his ability”, which has been contrasted with “how can he win under the condition that his subjects are inferior”?

The above four points take history as an example, and the following two points directly enter into practical problems. Its wording is also far sharper, pointing directly at the core of the problem, enough to make the anti war opponents unable to refute.

V. the most serious problem is the consumption of elite personnel. Zhugeliang put forward a very severe warning: “if you spend a few years, how can you plan for the enemy?” Therefore, taking a purely defensive approach is tantamount to sitting and waiting for death. Vi. finally, from the economic point of view. “Living and traveling, labor and fees are equal”, so it is impossible to live with thieves in one state.

“Taking offense as defense” is a big strategy with high political significance. At that time, the people in Shu were already depressed and lacking in fighting spirit. Only by launching an offensive can we unite the internal forces and tide over the difficulties. If we only take extreme defensive measures, it would be tantamount to admitting defeat. From a diplomatic point of view, “taking offense as defense” and “uniting Wu to control Wei” have subtle coordination. Only when Shu launched repeated attacks could Wu respect its national strength and be willing to cooperate with it. It would also follow the example of fighting against Wei and exert the substantive effect of controlling Wei. As long as the two articles “Longzhong Dui” and “Hou Chu Shi Biao” are analyzed in detail, we should be able to understand Zhugeliang’s genius and wisdom in the big strategic field.

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