The 36 Strategies

Befriend A Far Enemy To Win From One Nearby


Befriend A Distant Enemy To Attack One Nearby

Means that a nearby but less strong enemy is more a danger than a far but strong enemy. So you have to befriend your far enemy to attack your close enemy and that leads to victory.

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.

It is more advantageous to conquer the nearby enemies, because of geographical reasons, than those far away. So ally yourself temporarily with your distant enemies in spite of political differences.


Han Dynasty China

In 110 AD the province of Honan had suffered through droughts and floods, the harvests were poor and the people starving.

The corrupt government only made matters worse and soon the whole province was in chaos. The numerous bands of bandits and robbers that roamed the countryside pillaging and terrorizing the population thwarted any hope of bringing in outside relief.

A provincial official by the name of Yu-Hu was appointed full powers to try to restore some order to the province. When he arrived at the district capital he issued a notice that he was going to organized a military force and that he was looking for recruits.

First he promised a pardon for past crimes and immunity for anyone who joined up. Then he announced that he was looking for men for three classes of troops. The first class of troops were to consist of men who had committed robbery and murder. They would be the commanders and receive the highest salaries. The second class would consist of men who had committed mere thievery. They would receive the next highest salaries. The third class would consist of men who had joined the robber bands simply because they were lazy and wished to avoid real labor. They would be paid the lowest salaries.

Within a couple of weeks Yu-Hu had over three hundred new recruits. When they had been issued uniforms and weapons he had them paraded before him and addressed them as follows: "Your past deeds are now forgiven and you are free from prosecution. But you must still atone for the crimes you have committed against society. To do this you must now go out and hunt down all your past colleagues who have not answered my call." This they did and within a year the fraternity of bandits was extinct and the countryside made safe.


During the Warring States period, Zhao Xiang was the king of Qin. His prime minister Duke Rang wanted to boost his stature and suggested to the king that they attack the distant state of Qi to expand their influence.

When Fan Sui heard about this, he quickly remonstrated with the king, "For a large and powerful state like ours to conquer the territories of dukes and princes is as easy a task as using the famed black hounds of Han to catch rabbits. But Qin has been inward-looking and without major accomplishments for 15 years. This is partly due to the incompetance off Duke Rang and your majesty's oversight."

When asked what his oversight was, Fan Sui told the emperor, "To attack the distant Qi instead of the nearby Han and Wei is an error. We should befriend distant states and attack nearby ones so that whatever territory seized is immediately incorprated into our state. Han and Wei are both central states and located in pivotal positions. Your majesty's conquest over them would intimidate Chu and Zhao. Once Chu and Zhao lose their protective screen, they'll have to submit to us. Then what can Qi on its own do against us?"

The king was pleased and in the year 266 BC, Fan Sui was made the prime minister. Qin acted according to his plan and made peace with the distant Qi and Chu while attacking Han.

Within 10 years, Qin swallowed Han, followed by Zhao, Wei, Chu Yan and finally Qi. China was unified for the first time in its history under the Qin banner.


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