International Relations Theory

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History of Sun Tzu

Sun Tzuinitially named Sun Wu and also called Chang Qing authored The Art of War in the sixth century BC during the Spring and Autumn period. This military strategy book became one of the most influential and books of war and Sun Tzu became well known as not only a military strategist but also a realist in international relations theory. It presents a philosophy of war for managing conflicts and winning battles.

In fact, there are no exact records of Sun Tzu's birth or death. The only known records of his life were from a biography written in the 2nd century BC by a historian named Ssu-ma Ch'ien. Sun Tzu is believed to have been born in 544 BC under the name Sun Wu, possibly in the state of Qi in ancient China. His families were members of the shi, an ancient class of landless aristocrats who lost their land during that period. During Sun Tzu's time, most shi travelled as academic scholars, but Sun Tzu decided to work as a mercenary. After working throughout the country, the ruling king, King Ho-lu of Wu, hired Sun Tzu as a general in 512 BC.

During the time of Sun Tzu's generalship, the kingdom of Wu was considered a semi-barbaric state and incompetent of military regulation. After Sun Tzu took control, the military in Wu went on to conquer the state of Chu, the most powerful state in the Spring and Autumn period in Chinese history. After the defeat of Chu, Sun Tzu then disappeared, wanting a quiet, peaceful life as opposed to one of constant conflict. Nevertheless, his teachings went on to influence not only military strategies, but also martial arts in both armed and unarmed combat. Indeed, his teaching known as Bing Fa became the basis for most Asian martial arts.

Historians alleged that Sun Tzu's work did not support or advocate war but, instead, told of strategies to employ should conflict arise. In actual fact, according to historians, Sun Tzu's philosophies were more about how to avoid war while still maintaining control over an enemy in tight situations rather than war itself.

Military Concept of the Sun Tzu's Art of War

Basically chapter 12 which is "Attacking with Fire" mainly describes the use of the fire and also the use of environment as weapon to attack the enemy. It must be noted that in ancient wars, fire was a very important means that was used as an offensive weapon to attack enemy. In actual fact, fire bombs, arrows with fire tips and other inflammable materials have been used in ancient times as some form of weaponry to attack beyond the front line of the enemy. If it is used properly, it can be a very powerful and destructive weapon.

Sun Tzu asserted that there are five to use fire as an offensive weapon against the enemy:

  • Burn the troops of the enemy. The main reason is to decrease the numerical superiority of the enemy. Burning the soldiers would also create fear and reduce their fighting spirit.
  • Burn the provisions and stockpiles of the enemy. The purpose is to deny food and supplies to the enemy. When food and supplies are lacking, his combat effectiveness will be significantly affected. Sun Tzu said that and army without sufficient food and grain will die, and an army without sufficient stockpiles and reserves will not survive.
  • Burn the heavy military equipment and supplies of the enemy. The motive here is to damage the combat capability of the enemy. This is because without artillery, the soldiers will lose much of the combat advantage.
  • Burn the armory and warehouses of the enemy. The goal here is to eliminate the sustainability of offensive capability of the enemy. In ancient time, military equipment such as arrows, spears, shields and so forth were easily expended or lost during battles and they needed to be regularly replenished or reloaded.
  • Burn the transportation trains of the enemy. The transportation trains are the logistics and supply chain group which supports the frontline combat personnel. The objective is to terminate the replenishment of food, supplies and other provisions.

To use fire as a medium for attack, several factors need to be considered such as the necessary equipment and materials must be available and knowing the window of opportunity in which fire can be used. These include knowing the right time of the day, knowing the right day of the month, and knowing the right season of the year. Moreover, Sun tzu even detailed the use of Chinese astronomy to identify the exact location of the moons and stars to determine suitable moments in which fire can be used.

Sun Tzu expounded that the five ways of attacking fire can be used interchangeably depending on the circumstances at hand. He highlighted the need to understand and interpret the various signs created by fire such as when to attack from outside, when to wait, when to follow through when opportunities arise, and when to cease taking advantages. In addition, there are no fixed rules for the use of fire as an offensive weapon. It depends on the condition of the enemy, the terrain and the weather. Hence, Sun Tzu mentioned that fire can be started anywhere and anytime, as long as the conditions are suitable. Furthermore, it is important to understanding the characteristic of wind as it plays a very essential function in affecting how fire can be used. Therefore, it is crucial to know wind directions, its blowing strength as well as duration.

At the end of this chapter, Sun Tzu returned to the important subject of leadership. He expounded that the ultimate objective in winning wars must be exploit whatever gains there are swiftly and expediently. Or else, it would be a waste of time and resources as war are won at high costs. Hence, it is always important to try to capture a whole nation intact rather than destroy it. As such, the ruler and his generals play vital roles in ensuring that wars are not conducted in vain. For instance, they should bear in mind the following:

  • Move only when there are advantages to be gained and cease when there are no advantages to be gained.
  • Strike only when there are definite chances of success. This can be accomplished by attacking places where there are weak defences or no defences, through detailed and thorough planning, by applying the rules of engagement so as to gain relative superiority at the points of contact through concentration of forces, by choosing an enemy that is easily defected of and etc.
  • Fight only when there are definite dangers or threats. War should only waged as a measure of last resort and if possible other alternatives should be explored.
  • A warlord must not embark on a military campaign simply out of anger.
  • A general must not go into battle which is out of rage.

According to Sun Tzu, war is a matter of crucial importance as it concerns the lives of people and the rise of fall of a nation. Therefore, it must be examined and studied thoroughly. Besides, his four-stage offensive strategy as mentioned in "Strategic Attacks", that one should begin trying to win by strategizing lends further support to the avoidance of an all-out war. Assaulting walled cities is a measure of last resort and should be avoided at all costs. This shows that Sun Tzu was a great military strategist that advocates of peace and diplomacy. He asserted that politics and military matters cannot be separated, and the interest of the civilians should dominate over the ambitions of the politicians and armed forces. This is concisely captured by his statement that it is the enlightened ruler who has to deliberate and decide on whether to go for war, and it will be the generals who have to support and realize the decision.


        Applies the concepts of attacking with fire in a business, it relates and important on market strategy of leadership and reinventing an industry. Leadership is a person to motivating, influencing, and directing employee in the organization to work productively to achieve the organization goals. An effective leadership in organization is the ability leader to get high performance from his or her subordinates. Leader is the person to make decision and person to decide needs on the front lines of battle.

Reinventing an industry is a market strategy applies the principle of competing within business. This method must master creative destruction by an entrepreneur in widest form of competition. In addition, this method also applies to change and renovate the existing industry and the essence of being a successful entrepreneur. Based on the Sun Tzu's Art of War of market strategy it contains five ways of reinventing an industry such as eliminate people, eliminate time, eliminate transportation, eliminate inventory and last and eliminate locations.

According the Sun Tzu's system, entrepreneur should able to analyze competitive situation and spot in opportunity, and make the best decisions for their business. In the competitive environment, it has to decide in term of business climate and the market place. In addition, it also has to consider the competitor, a commander and methods or leadership and the system that make a business work. It objects to building a new empire is achieved by destroying the existing empire.

Climate is known as time and change. Time and change is out of control, it is continuous changes and it affects all aspects of a strategic position. The fact that climate is always changing it also changing in strategic position. In a market strategy, timing is helps to finding an opportunity for attacks. Create a new idea and renovate the old method it is the attack competitor. In addition, it has to include the response by customers, employees, and competitors that to creates the opportunity. It helps to advance position and destroying the existing industry. Marketplace is an important characteristic to competitive battle for customer takes place. In a business is choosing a right market and utilizing the goals of decision making. It helps to reinventing an industry.

Leadership skills and business system are the critical components. Leader is the main person to make a decision and provides a strong individual idea. Business systems are the techniques of organization to define the group action and interaction. In an organization more complicated system to work and decision of leaders shape the business system it can bring the business in mission and reinventing an industry. Besides that, it should understand the methods of competitor's system and the decision of competitor's leader.

Opportunities can take away the existing market and building new position. To renovate an industry it provides creative change and destructive change. Creative change and destructive change is known as the environmental and specific instrument used in fighting. There are related to each other in emotional responses and it will be responding to changes.

Sun Tzu provides five rules for creative destruction in reinventing an industry. At the beginning of business, entrepreneur is important to understand and compare own product with the competitors' product. It provides to eliminate the features. Next, entrepreneur has to target need of customer and invite new customers to create a new market for the new product. Besides that, entrepreneur has to reinventing an industry and finds a suitable of market place to create a new business. Entrepreneur has fulfills the requirement on the market need from time to time. After that, entrepreneur has to create an alternative way to make small changes in outside industry to attack indirectly industry. Lastly, entrepreneur utilizes the opportunity and trends in the market to destroy the existing methods. The rules would not influence the trends in technology or thinking but it will make less visible trends fade quickly.

        The method or business system skill of reinventing an industry are moving and claiming. It is uses a new position to reap a reward to consistent a mission and moving a required speed. All the moving act provides in Sun Tzu provides an advantages and disadvantages of a new opportunity on business.


According to the research, the attacking with fire strategy has been applied by a lot of company in their business management till nowadays. Innovation is the central strategy to be used in reinventing an industry.


According to the research, the advantage of reinventing an industry is it will help company to reduce risk. It is because the company is selling not only one type of product but more than one product. For example, Burberry which is established at the year 1856 by Thomas Burberry, a 21 years old draper's apprentice is able to reduce its risks during raining seasons. During this season, when the rainwear sales are slow, for instance, Burberry's economic risk is reduced by sales of other product line such as eyewear, timepieces, fragrance, accessories, Burberry sport and etc.

        Synergy, which means a company which has many different business entities, is surely much better than a company having only one. This can also be an advantage for a company.


Basically, Chapter 12- "Attacking with Fire" expounds the used of weapon generally and the use of the environment as a weapon specifically to attack the enemy. For instance, it examines the five targets for attack, the five types of environment attack, and the appropriate responses to such attack. Concisely, strength, weaknesses of the enemy and other factors that might arose during the wage war need to be taken into the consideration before attacking the opponent. In addition, the right timing is also a crucial factor in this strategy. For example, the attack should be readily change in accordance to the unexpected situation occurred during the wage war. Besides that, sufficient and adequate preparations such as the requirement to conduct an attack must be readily at all time.

Apart from that, based on this Sun Tzu's Art of War's assignment, we also learned that the military concept can actually be applied in the business application i.e. the importance of the leadership. Leadership is the ability to influence people toward the attainment of goals. It is reciprocal, occurring among people. Leadership is dynamic and involves the use of power to get things done. Effective leadership helps our nation through times of peril. It makes a business organization successful as well as enables a non-profit organization to fulfill its mission. Leadership is fundamental in implementing decisions successfully. For an instance, profit is the main concern in business and thus acquisition in a right and good way are the most important principles that needs to be done by a leader in an organization.

In a nutshell, we have gained a lot of precious and valuable knowledge from this Sun Tzu Art's of War's assignment. We should master all the strategies in this book and acknowledge the efforts of Sun Tzu in educating us. If we can combine the great idea of attacking with fire of Sun Tzu together with our own knowledge, as long as it is not against the law as well as not to abuse anyone, we shall make a huge opulence from it. At last but not least, we should learn from the history as guidance and advice in our real life.