Expanding the Intellectual Capital on Challenges: China

Three Kingdoms: An Introduction

In western civilization, the classics of military strategy are often cited but rarely read. In contrast, Luo Guanzhong’s classic Three Kingdoms forms a subconscious foundation for the masses in eastern civilization to discuss strategy. Historical figures such as Cao Cao, Liu Bei, and the great strategist Kongming resonate more than most contemporary figures today. The Three Kingdoms is considered one of the four classics of Chinese literature with widespread availability in print, DVD, audio, cartoon, video games, and film.[1] In 2008, the film Red Cliff (the most well-known battle in the Three Kingdoms) broke box office records for the highest grossing film in China. On par with the significance of the Napoleonic and Peloponnesian Wars, the Three Kingdoms documents the fall of the Han Dynasty and one of the most significant battles in Chinese history.

Three Kingdoms is based on the historical facts of the Annals of the Three Kingdoms incorporating fictional elements.[2] Immortalized by Luo Guanzhong in the fourteenth century, the mixture of history and myth continues to resonate deeply in the hearts of China’s population. The epic is a tale of the struggle for power during the second and third century spanning a period of 100 years. Mao Zedong is purported to have read the classic 120 times and cited it until his final days as a revolutionary in part of his written memoirs.[3]

The impact on contemporary Chinese strategists and decision makers of this battle, in which military leaders may have employed an army of nearly one million men, is tremendous. Movements of such size may not have been seen again until Napoleon Bonaparte’s time over a millennium later. By unraveling Three Kingdoms and the Battle of Red Cliff, western strategists may find fundamental points of reference to better understand Chinese perceptions of strategy and international relations today and find global solutions to global challenges. Chinese activity in its periphery, global expansion through the One Belt One Road initiative, and even the naming convention of its anti-access/area denial capabilities may all have their roots in a Chinese classic and strategy relatively unknown to the western strategist but clearly understood to the whole of society in China.

Kongming and the Tri-Polar Balance of Power

The Three Kingdoms opens the same manner as it closes, “The Empire, long divided, must unite; long united, must divide. Thus it has ever been.”[4] In this cyclical context of balance, strategists should prudently posture for the inevitable fall of one hegemon and the rise of another. Today the idea may provide a rich contextual point of reference and aid in explaining Chinese desires to reclaim vast territories lost centuries ago in what may genuinely be considered the natural unification of their divided empire. Of greater interest to strategists, it may provide an integrated view for understanding China’s global advances and overarching strategy through the tri-polar balance of power model.[5]

In this cyclical context of balance, strategists should prudently posture for the inevitable fall of one hegemon and the rise of another.

Often celebrated by the Chinese as the greatest strategist in history, Kongming is introduced in the classic as living an apparent life of seclusion. More likely, Kongming has prudently shaped the environment to build a cognitive buffer and gain a relative temporal advantage to understand the intentions of others. Throughout the Three Kingdoms, Kongming establishes a key role of the strategist as a highly aware observer of both man and nature. One of his tasks is “to listen and watch the behavior, especially the body language, facial expressions and tone of voice of the key players…[the strategist] is trying to decipher true intent, motivations and ambitions of the other contenders to the throne.”[6] In contrast, Western examples of gaining relative temporal advantage may emphasize accelerating decision cycles in relation to an already identified competitor. The Chinese model highlights a point of departure in method, often misidentified with the tactic of deception, to achieving relative temporal advantage. The Chinese model may identify a challenger long before their opponent gains the awareness to reciprocate and accelerate decision cycles. 

 The temptation to reduce Chinese thoughts on strategy to the single idea of deception is prevalent and conforms to Western stereotypes of “inscrutable” Asian cultures.[7] However, this reductionist conclusion is not consistent with Chinese core values and behavioral norms.[8] In framing his life motto, Kongming teaches “Opportunistic relationships can hardly be kept constant. The acquaintance of honorable people…continues unfading through the four seasons, becomes increasingly stable as it passes through ease and danger.”[9] In separating opportunistic relationships from honorable people, Kongming devalues the western norm of networking as a positive endeavor in achieving effects in the long term. Gaining the enduring allegiance of men, through creating binding structures of self-interest and trust, may be of more value than any short term gain. Contemporary efforts for western powers to overcome such cognitive buffer zones may prove insurmountable due to institutional scars from opportunistic interactions dating from the Century of Humiliation.[10]

The first character to pass Kongming’s test of sincerity to form a beneficial relationship is the warlord Liu Bei.[11] Liu Bei is losing a war against Prime Minister Cao Cao and is desperately searching for a strategy to unite the divided empire. Kongming directs Liu Bei’s attention to the central region of Jingzhou and presents the tri-polar balance of power model. He identifies key lines of communication and sources of wealth to establish a near term power base. Kongming points to a map, “To establish your hegemony, let Cao Cao in the north have the advantage of timely circumstance, let Sun Quan [warlord] in the south have his geographic advantages: you, my general, will have the allegiance of men. First take Jingzhou and make it your home base. Then move into the Riverlands [western area of Yizhou] and build your third of the triangle of power. Eventually, the northern heartland will become your objective.”[12] Kongming designs a tri-polar balance of power model to incrementally turn weakness into strength and defeat a superior force with a design for ultimate hegemony.

The incremental approach to consolidate power in the tri-polar balance of power model may provide a fundamental point of reference to better understand Chinese activity today in the Asia-Pacific region and the globe. Chinese activities in the South China Sea may be best understood in the context as the modern-day equivalent of a resource rich Jingzhou with similar key lines of communications. China’s largely uncontested territorial grab in international waters, combined with their emphasis on bilateral discussions to leverage weaker nations, offer a stark reminder of the classic. Many of the territories in dispute amongst the members of the Association for Southeast Asian States (ASEAN) and China contain vast energy reserves.[13] Following an incremental approach, China’s One Belt One Road initiative may correlate to the subsequent step of moving into the riverlands once a home base is established. The One Belt One Road initiative, characterized as a “revived Silk Road” consisting of both land and maritime routes, may position China to lead the multi-lateral system and reshape the international order with increased access.[14]

Of concern to strategists in this historical parallel is identifying who, or what, is the modern day objective of the northern heartland and how China may leverage its contemporary interpretation of the “allegiance of men” through the creation of binding structures of self-interest and trust. In a 2016 report to Congress, the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission asserts “China is showing itself to the world now, and the outcome is not what many had hoped.”[15] The traditional U.S. educational pipelines of talent and resources allocated towards regional organizations and select professionals may not be sufficient to provide global solutions to a strategy implemented by a whole of society.   

China History SG, “Evaluation of the Long Zhong Plan ”(accessed 7 February 2018)

The Battle of Red Cliff

The Battle of Red Cliff may epitomize contemporary thoughts on Chinese strategy as part of one classical point of reference. The battle of Red Cliff masses the overwhelming land and naval forces of Prime Minister Cao Cao and his estimated force of 830,000 men against the allied force of Liu Bei and Sun Quan, led by General Zhou Yu, and their 60,000 men. The forces meet on the shore of the Yangtze River near Red Cliff in AD 208.[16]

Through an elaborate web of deception, General Zhou Yu develops a scheme of false defection to allow a subordinate General access to Cao Cao’s concentrated forces at the time and place of his choosing.[17] General Zhou Yu then ensures the concentrated force is unable to disperse under attack by fire through influencing Cao Cao’s decision to bind his ships.[18] A student of the the Battle of Red Cliff may find an uneasy historical parallel with the concentration of U.S. forces in the Asia-Pacific region today and the associated challenges of dispersion.[19]

Kongming then instructs General Zhou Yu to construct a platform and call it the Altar of the Seven Stars in order to counter Cao Cao’s relative advantage of positioning his ships to the western winds.[20] Despite the consensus view on the projection of continued western winds backing Cao Cao’s fleet and mitigating risk to attack by fire, Kongming pledges to bring the eastern winds to shift relative advantage at an unanticipated moment to his adversary.[21] In preparation for the preemptive attack, Kongming divulged, “All our forces are in place and ready, what we require now is the easterly wind.”[22] Cao Cao did not anticipate the false defection, or abrupt change of winds, and fire borne vessels destroyed his massive fleet.[23]

To the casual western observer, or skilled strategist, the idea of eastern winds and the cultural significance of seven stars may not resonate due to a multitude of factors to include educational bias in reading lists, language limitations, or regional focus. The image of Kongming calling the eastern winds, or Dong Feng, standing atop the Altar of the Seven Stars to defeat a concentrated force with the use of fire is not a common point of reference. The Dong Feng DF-21D anti-ship ballistic missile, and the entire Dong Feng series of missiles, may take their naming convention from the battle of Red Cliff. The eastern winds were the precondition of Kongming’s strategy and may indicate a subconscious foundation for strategy today.

The seven stars of the aforementioned altar, employed to call upon the eastern winds, are traditionally associated with the formation of the Big Dipper. The seven stars are also artifacts found on traditional Chinese swords and found in martial arts techniques.[24] The martial arts tradition with the Big Dipper conveys a belief that “an army that stands with its back to the Great Year was considered undefeatable.”[25] The position of the Big Dipper dictates the timing of the Great Year and is an indicator for the advance of an undefeatable army.[26] The significance of the Big Dipper, or BeiDou, to Chinese culture cannot be overstated.

Chinese satellites, such as the BeiDou Navigation Satellite System, may serve as part of a system of seemingly disparate functions, to achieve a long-range and global precision guided capability. China’s Beidou system is projected to achieve global coverage by 2020, providing position accuracies that match the Global Positioning System.[27] The development of precision guided munitions in large quantities has been the central feature of China’s anti-access/area denial objective within the People’s Liberation Army intended to make a U.S. military intervention in the Western Pacific more costly.[28] The incremental fielding of seemingly benign coverage capabilities for the BeiDou Navigation Satellite System may echo Cao Cao’s metaphorical dragon, an attempt to hide ambition and become a global hegemon.

Historical Parallels

A literal interpretation of Kongming’s ability to forecast the opportunities from heaven and anticipate a change in the operational environment may bring thoughts of witchcraft and mysticism. A more useful analog is to frame the actions in the monitoring of indicators. Variables such as the number of ports under Chinese control, growing U.S. supply chain vulnerabilities, and the completion of Chinese global space capabilities offers a modern-day parallel for Chinese strategists to work in harmony within the existing winds and gain the “allegiance of men” with the ultimate aim of advancing for hegemony upon an abrupt change in the environment.[29] The classical Chinese strategist “integrated the universal, holistic and intuitive with the factual, data-knowledge driven, logic rational processes when formulating strategy.”[30] A lesser strategist than the great Kongming may not know the exact timing when heaven shall offer the desired opportunity, but situational awareness of indicators and prudent preparation can have forces in position should a hegemon become vulnerable.[31]

One Belt, One Road (Economist)

The Battle of Red Cliff may have never been fought in a position of relative disadvantage had Liu Bei heeded Kongming’s advice to first consolidate his economic base. Despite victory at the battle of Red Cliff, Liu Bei and Kongming do not unite the Han empire.[32] The lesson from the epic battle and war, as well as the heroics of strategist Kongming to overcome an overwhelming force, may permeate Chinese thinking today.[33] Similar elements of the operating environment, such as the concentration of U.S. force posture in the Asia Pacific, may spur further reference to the classic.[34]

Thoughts and Recommendations

 Kongming’s most well-known exploits anchor Chinese strategy with the characteristics of imagination and the unorthodox.[35] The purpose of a prudent defense is to provide sufficient security for whatever may occur and a false narrative may leave strategists across the globe at a cognitive disadvantage. If the naming convention of the Eastern Winds DF-21D reflects a point of reference for strategy found in Three Kingdoms, then the Chinese may be consolidating power and awaiting the right opportunity to establish their own hegemony. Chinese activity in its periphery, global One Belt One Road expansion, and the naming convention of its anti-access/area denial capabilities offer a compelling parallel to identify the true objective of the “northern heartland”, understand the contemporary interpretation of “the allegiance of men”, and shape the indicators bringing the eastern winds.

Though Kongming was able to prolong the war with Cao Cao with the employment of technological innovations on the battlefield, the war was lost.

A possible indicator of a decision point from the Chinese is the fielding of the BeiDou Navigation Satellite System in 2020 as it relates to the tri-polar balance of power model. With a broader base of understanding in the Chinese classics, U.S. strategists and planners may be better positioned to anticipate Chinese intentions and understand their objectives beyond what may be publicly espoused in contemporary writings and public proclamations. The classic may also prove valuable in generating ideas to overcome areas of relative disadvantage beyond discussions centered on next-generation technologies and concepts for their employment. Though Kongming was able to prolong the war with Cao Cao with the employment of technological innovations on the battlefield, the war was lost.  

U.S. challenges to demonstrating sincerity with the Chinese will persist with the labeling of China as a peer competitor and a relative short U.S. attention span of opportunistic interactions dating from the Century of Humiliation. The Three Kingdoms should be incorporated into American professional military education to expand the intellectual capital beyond foreign area officers and the regional expertise of geographic commands. As an exporter of professional military education, the U.S. has institutionalized western classics and ideas across the profession of arms around the globe. However, not all of the foundational classics of other civilizations have made their way to the required reading list. A common understanding of a challenge requires an understanding of our own fundamental points of reference for doctrine and strategy and an understanding of others.

Paul Morris is a U.S. Air Force officer. The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and do not represent the U.S. Air Force, Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.

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Header Image: Image from the film Red Cliff (YouTube)


[1] Check Teck Foo, “Cognitive strategy from the Romance of the Three Kingdoms,” Chinese Management Studies 2, No. 3, (2008), 172.

[2] Luo Guanzhong, Three Kingdoms, trans. Moss Roberts (1995; repr., Beijing, China: Foreign Language Press, 2013), 3.

[3] Dong Zhixin, Mao Zedong Read The Romance of Three Kingdoms (China: Volumes Publishing Company, 2011), 1.

[4] Guanzhong, 1 and 2175.

[5] The tri-polar balance of power model is a strategy applied in a tri-polar world where a relatively weaker power consolidates its economic and military power before engaging with the stronger power(s) to gain hegemony. 

[6] Foo, 179.

[7] Deception is a tactic, not a strategy, to initially test the sincerity and honor of others. In interfacing with their eastern counterparts, western business leaders are taught “tactics and deceptive behavior have three functions: first, test others’ sincerity, screening allies from competitors; second, protect, concealing strengths and weaknesses; third, deliver misleading information to rivals, “confusing and exhausting” them.” The effects of deception build a cognitive buffer zone to offer time to understand intentions of human interactions while shaping relative disadvantage or a condition of greater uncertainty to adversaries. If an unknown actor can overcome the initial buffer zone of deceptive behavior and demonstrate sincerity, a mutually beneficial relationship is possible.

[8] Li Yan and Taieb Hafsi, Understanding Chinese Business Behaviour: A historical perspective from three kingdoms to modern China, (Montreal, Quebec: HEC Montreal, Jan 2007), 7.

[9] Zhuge Liang and Liu Ji, Mastering the Art of War trans. Thomas Cleary (Boston, Massachusetts: Shambhala Publications), 58.

[10] China endured a lengthy period of victimization by outside powers. Starting in 1840 with the Qing Dynasty and the failed negotiation to halt British imports of opium, China endured the destruction of its Emperor’s palace, the annexation of Hong Kong, and the imposition of extraterritoriality by an occupation force for its foreign citizens. A total of eight foreign powers occupied the Forbidden City during the Boxer Rebellion, seizing Chinese treasures as war trophies. China was divided up into fiefdoms with a series of local warlords serving various foreign powers.  With the assistance of the Soviet Union, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) looked to unify China under the precondition of allowing the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to join the KMT. After an ideological confrontation, KMT Generalissimo Chiang Kai-Shek initiated a violent purge of the communists, setting the context for a civil war between the CCP and the KMT. From October 1934 to October 1935, the CCP endured a retreat of over 6000 miles—the Long March. In the course of this epic march, Mao Zedong emerged as the undisputed leader. The memory of the struggle for survival is etched in history 68 years later on the Long March 2F rocket which propelled China to become the third nation capable of manned space missions. Invasion by Japan in 1937 spurred Mao to offer an alliance with Chiang Kai-Shek to expel the foreign invaders. The eventual defeat of Japan in 1945 reignited the Chinese civil war, in which the Communists rapidly prevailed. In defeat, Chiang and the KMT retreated to Taiwan in 1949 with the sustained goal of overthrow of the CCP. In 1949, coupled with the final expulsion of foreign invaders and a unified mainland China, Mao Zedong publicly proclaimed the end of the Century of Humiliation. Today, leaders of the CCP continue to cite a desire for non-interference in domestic affairs and closure of their civil war through complete unification. Though the Century of Humiliation has ended, the scars of foreign intervention have yet to heal with continued U.S. involvement with Taiwan .

[11] Liu Bei writes a personal letter to Kongming and states, “I have enjoyed prestige and rank far beyond my merits…Whatever sincerity I may offer to the cause of delivering the Han is wasted for want of strategy.” He humiliates himself in the short term in order to gain the enduring allegiance of Kongming. Guanzhong, 672.

[12] Ibid., 680.

[13] The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates the South China Sea contains approximately 11 billion barrels of oil and 190 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in proved and probable reserves. In a disparity, the Chinese National Offshore Oil Company estimates the area holds nearly 125 billion barrels of oil and 500 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. US Energy Information Administration, “South China Sea,” last modified February 7, 2013, available at https://www.eia.gov/beta/international/regions-topics.cfm?RegionTopicID=SCS.

[14] “The Multi-lateral Kingdom: China’s Growing Clout in International Economic Affairs,” The Economist, March 23, 2017, available at http://www.economist.com/news/finance-and-economics/21719498-america-retreats-china-advances-chinas-growing-clout-international-economic.

[15] US-China Economic and Security Review Commission, 2016 Report to Congress, (Washington DC, November 2016), available at https://www.uscc.gov/Annual_Reports/2016-annual-report-congress.

[16] Kongming instructs Liu Bei to consolidate his forces in Jingzhou and wait for “when Heaven shall offer…the desired opportunity.” But Liu Bei does not heed Kongming’s advice and allows Jingzhou to fall to Cao Cao, which further emboldens the advance of his adversary. The resources of Jingzhou, both in the allegiance of men and economic resources, propels the colossal army of Cao Cao. Subsequently, Kongming is forced to incite the ambitious warlord Sun Quan from the south into an alliance with Liu Bei under the command of General Zhou Yu to offset the error.

[17] General Zhou Yu requests his subordinate General Huang Gai to participate in a gruesome ruse. In the troop formation, General Huang Gai creates the illusion of insubordination and overtly advocates surrender. According to plan, General Huang Gai is beaten mercilessly to the dismay of the unsuspecting masses. In recovery, General Huang Gai feigns defection to Cao Cao’s spies under the pretext of revenge. Cao Cao warily accepts the General’s plan to surrender at the time of his choosing.

[18] General Zhou Yu develops an intricate plan to implant strategist Pang Tong within Cao Cao’s camp. Pang Tong, a refugee from the north, offers a plausible cause for sedition under the guise of leadership dissatisfaction. Pang Tong concocts a boat connecting scheme to make the greatest use of fire against Cao Cao’s massive flotilla. Pang Tong tells General Zhou Yu, “On the river if one boat burns, the others will scatter unless someone can convince Cao Cao to connect up his ships.” Once in Cao Cao’s camp, Pang Tong observes sickness and death among the soldiers with symptoms of nausea and vomiting due to poor acclimation to the southern climate. Pang Tong disingenuously diagnoses the cause as the pitching and rolling of the ships and proposes binding the ships with planks to minimize the effects of the waves. In admiration of Pang Tong’s knowledge of the classics, Cao Cao orders the binding of his ships to preserve the health of his men. In preparation for battle, Cao Cao’s advisors question his decision to bind his already concentrated forces, alarmingly aware of their inability to disperse under attack from fire. Cao Cao retorts, “Any attack with fire must rely on the force of the wind. Now at winter’s depth, there are only north winds and west winds-how could there be a south wind or an east wind? Our position is northwest; their troops are all on the southern shore. If they use fire, they will only burn out their own troops.”

[19] The US force posture in the Asia-Pacific somewhat resembles Pang Tong’s boat connecting scheme with forces heavily concentrated toward Northeast Asia. Of the non-CONUS PACOM military and civilian personnel, over 60 percent are based in the relatively tiny land masses of Japan and Korea. CSIS, US Force Posture Strategy in the Asia Pacific Region: An Independent Assessment, (Washington, DC: Center for Strategic and International Studies, August 2012), 48.

[20] General Zhou Yu impatiently awaits the eastern winds to back the positioning of General Huang Gai’s vessels and fire and feints with the arrival of stronger western winds. Kongming secretly passes a note identifying the lack of eastern winds as the source of illness. In disbelief, General Zhou Yu pleads for a cure to the crisis.

[21] Guanzhong, 852.

[22] General Huang Gai prepares for the offensive and packs 20 boats with flammable materials for the false defection. At the signal of the eastern winds, General Huang Gai is to set sail for Cao Cao’s fleet as part of his sham surrender and ram the unsuspecting force with fire. An impatient General Zhou Yu observes no changes to the winds and proclaims Kongming’s forecast as absurd. At that moment, the winds arrive from the southeast.

[23] In both elation and dismay of the arrival of the eastern winds, General Zhou Yu orders the attack on Cao Cao’s forces. Cao Cao initially welcomes the anticipated false defection and absorption of additional forces. General Huang Gai lights his ships on fire and rams into the concentrated naval formation. The fire leaps forward in advance of the charging ships, with the eastern winds pushing at their stern, and ignites Cao Cao’s entire fleet.

[24] Thomas F. Aylward, The Imperial Guide to Feng Shui and Chinese Astrology: The Only Authentic Translation from the Original Chinese (London: Watkins Publishing, 2007), 50.

[25] Ibid.

[26] The Great Year is “a visible phenomenon that refers to the direction to which the handle of the Big Dipper points when the new moon appears in the same zodiacal sign as the planet Jupiter. Aylward, 48.

[27] According to a U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission Staff Research Report in January of 2017, the position accuracies are estimated to be under ten meters (one meter or less with regional augmentation) using a network of 35 satellites.

[28] Jordan Wilson, “China’s Alternative to GPS and its Implication for the United States,” U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission Staff Research Report, (January 5, 2017), 3.

[29] China is the source of 90 to 95 percent of world rare-earth oxides and the producer of a majority of the globe’s strongest rare-earth magnets. From the 1960s to the 1980s, the US was the global leader in rare-earth mining and production. Access to rare earth metals are required for platforms such as the F-35, Alreigh-Burke Destroyers, and the Virginia Class of submarines. Peter Grier, “Rare Earth Uncertainty,” Air Force Magazine, February 2018, available at http://www.airforcemag.com/MagazineArchive/Pages/2018/February%202018/Rare-Earth-Uncertainty.aspx.

[30] Sawyer, 180.

[31] The CJCS identified “solvency” as a threat he would add to the “4+1 framework” of challenges (Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, and VEOs) if he could. Indicators of US solvency are an example of what Chinese strategists may be prudently preparing for in transitioning from one hegemon to another. Fred Drews, “Joint Chiefs Chairman Dunford on the “4+1 framework” and meeting transnational threats,” Brookings Now, February 24, 2017, available at https://www.brookings.edu/blog/brookings-now/2017/02/24/joint-chiefs-chairman-dunford-transnational-threats.

[32] Fighting against a numerically superior force, Kongming preserves the dream of uniting the empire with the successful employment of technological advances until the indifferent leadership of Liu Bei’s son proves too much to overcome. Artifacts to his logistic and operational genius are the development of the single-wheel wheelbarrow, known as the “wooden ox”, and the repeating ten-shot crossbow. The technological innovations were developed to meet the requirements of overwhelming circumstances. Lesser known for his failures, he “was constrained by limited resources, impossible terrain, occasionally incompetent and obstreperous commanders, and a youthful, ignorant ruler.” The logistic challenges of projecting force over great distances with an inferior force and poor leadership prove too much for the relative technological advantage employed on the battlefield. Ralph D. Sawyer, Zhuge Liang: Strategy, Achievements, and Writings (North Charleston, South Carolina: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2014), 108.

[33] Mao Zedong makes a direct correlation to the masses and Proletariat with Kongming, emphasizing he does not need individual genius since collective wisdom can overcome anything. Indeed, the classic may support such a claim as it educates all levels of society from children to adults. In 1987, China Central Television constructed a Three Kingdoms theme park for both locals and tourists to relive the epic. The park attracts over 2 million visitors a year with the climactic Battle of Red Cliff as a main attraction. Further contributing to the collective wisdom, China Central Television produced an 84-episode series recounting the cyclical tales of division and reunification. Loyalty to the throne is a powerful message the government can embrace while corruption within the court as a causal factor of political decline is an equally attractive theme for the populace. At the 2014 Tokyo Game Show, video game maker Koei Tecmo announced the release of the 30th anniversary edition of Romance of the Three Kingdoms ensuring future generations will be familiar with heroes of the classic. Touching even the elite in periphery nations, Japanese CEOs are known to recount their favorite episodes on competitive strategy in the business world.

[34] The U.S. force posture in the Asia-Pacific resembles Pang Tong’s boat connecting scheme with forces heavily concentrated toward Northeast Asia. According to the Aug 2012 CSIS Independent Assessment of US Force Posture Strategy in the Asia Pacific Region,  over 60 percent of the U.S. Pacific Command military and civilian personnel not based in the continental United States itself are based in the relatively tiny land masses of Japan and Korea. At the Battle of Red Cliff, Pang Tong’s scheme binded concentrated enemy forces for their destruction through the use of fire with anticipation of changing winds.

[35] Kongming is known for more exploits than calling upon the Eastern Winds. Prior to the battle of Red Cliff, he turns a shortage of arrows into a surplus by absorbing the strength of his adversary in a naval engagement. Kongming incorporates deception by mimicking a large force attacking under the protection of fog, but his unorthodox knowledge of the imminent change in terrain to mask the true size of his force fascinates the aspiring strategist to this day. Even more astounding, his actions to reduce his own deadline to deliver the arrows and acting on the final day of the deadline resonates with the most selective of audiences. In a cognitive challenge from a treacherous ally, Kongming continuously spars to continue the game of relative appraisal until exiting at the time of his choosing