Geo-Strategic Lessons from Go

    Keywords: Strategy, Culture & History

More and more during the last decade, military and foreign policy thinkers have been realizing that Go may have applicability in understanding Chinese military affairs and foreign policy and that such a study may show ways to affect it. Go has been coupled with shi (see: influence), from The Art of War, to explain the nature of the Chinese way of war and diplomacy. The seminal work was:

  • The Protracted Game: A Wei-ch'i Interpretation of Maoist Revolutionary Strategy (1969). It is an account of the use of go in the Chinese revolution.

One document that attempts to draw broad geo-strategic lessons is:

Abstract: To help with the process of identifying those new and untested strategic concepts that merit further examination, the Strategic Studies Institute is publishing a special series called "Advancing Strategic Thought." This provides a venue--a safe haven--for creative, innovative, and experimental thinking about national security policy and military strategy. In this monograph, the author uses the ancient game of Go as a metaphor for the Chinese approach to strategy. He shows that this is very different than the linear method that underlies American strategy. By better understanding Go, he argues, American strategists could better understand Chinese strategy.

Cf . Sun Tzu.

Cf . Art of War.

Cf . Influence 势 (shě) Sun Tzu's fifth chapter is entitled "Shi.

A new book discusses shi in more detail and mentions Go:

A review: "Written from within the Asian strategic perspective, General Kim’s book provides the first examination of 'Shi' or 'strategic power,' a concept that proved vital in historical battles and remains crucial to the PRC’s quest to formulate contemporary military science with unique Chinese characteristics."--Ralph D. Sawyer, author of Seven Military Classics of Ancient China." -The portion covering go starts on page 32. --Rocky Farr

Other recent examples of this thinking, it seems to be catching on in defence circles, both weiqi and shi, include:

  • Lai, David; Hamby, Gary W. East meets West: An ancient game sheds new light on US-Asian strategic relations. "The Korean Journal of Defense Analysis," Vol. XIV, No. 1, Spring 2003.
  • Dr. Chong-Pin Lin. President, Foundation on International and Cross-strait Studies Professor, Graduate Institute of International affairs and Strategic Studies, Tamkang University. CHINA’S CROSS-STRAIT GO GAME Taiwan Juggles Democracy and National Security.2005 Pacific Symposium US National Defense University. [ext]
  • Waldron, Arthur. The Art of Shi. A review of "Cultural realism: Strategic culture and grand strategy in Chinese history" by Alastair Iain Johnston. "The New Republic," June 22, 1997.
                                          --Rocky Farr

See also: Non-fiction, The Protracted Game, and Scott Boorman

The CEO of Acer is known to be a go player. I can't give a reference unfortunately, but my wife interviewed him and I have the original article.

I have done lots of thinking about this, however. Anyone interested in it, please contact me via my user page.

One thought I have is that sea battles are a much better way of taking strategic lessons from go than land battles. The geometry of the sea is like the geometry of the go board. So imagine the board being filled one ship at a time.

Perhaps an even better metaphor is a sea-battle in which the 'ships' are individual soldiers.

Of course, there is no 'perfect metaphor' for go, but I think reading up on military strategy is more fun than reading go strategy books. (Books about the fundamentals are different -- those are fun to read... But books on joseki... not for me.)

Thucydides's The History of the Peloponnesian War is all about land/sea battles.

-- ikktomuseyokkis

The Go'ing Insurrection sees Go as a system for describing conflict or struggle more generally and seeks to apply Go proverbs and strategy to contemporary uprisings.

Geo-Strategic Lessons from Go last edited by onerabbit on November 12, 2013 - 15:06
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