Bannon misreads Sun Tzu in going to economic war

By Ed Zhang Source:Global Times Published: 2017/8/21 18:48:39

Illustration: Peter C. Espina/GT


President Donald Trump's former chief strategist Steve Bannon is said to have read many books, including The Art of War by Sun Tzu, a Chinese classic on strategy written about 2,500 years ago. It's little book that one easily reads many times, as have many executives in modern organizations.

However, Bannon is a poor student of Sun Tzu. In an interview with the website American Prospect, published on Wednesday in the US, Bannon was quoted as saying "the economic war with China is everything," when a division was being made in the home front of the self-appointed economic war general.

"To me the economic war with China is everything. And we have to be maniacally focused on that," Bannon was quoted as saying. "If we continue to lose it, we're five years away, I think, 10 years at the most, of hitting an inflection point from which we'll never be able to recover," he said.

One of the most important conditions to allow a warring state to score a victory, according to Sun Tzu, is to keep the maximum possible unity of its own people, especially that between the state leader and the public. But just look at Charlottesville, Virginia. And just listen to what Trump said that was reportedly welcomed by David Duke, former Ku Klux Klan leader.

The Bannon interview was released right after some members of the US Congress singled him out as responsible for spreading ideologies often defined as white supremacism and called for his dismissal from the White House.

Does Bannon really seriously want to start an economic war against China with such a deep scar being left in very social fabric of the US? Or is he only trying to bail out the White House from an emerging public relations crisis by pointing his finger at an easy scapegoat?

Whatever the case, Bannon's interview only betrayed his sub-par intelligence as a strategist. He doesn't have a winning strategy. In either scenario, by what he said and did, Bannon was only trying to further alienate US society or the global economy, when sharing and working together, either across classes or nations, is the only way to create more opportunities.

Bannon cannot really help his nation by piling up divisive remarks and touting a war against a force that no one has managed to crush through history, even in its most difficult times.

Don't forget the simple truth that for the current state of the US economy, the People's Republic of China has played an unmistakably helpful role as one of the international financers of many of its undertakings. Cursing, let alone fighting, one's creditor is a far from welcome tactic in the market. It would be hard for Bannon to claim that he can protect America's value from his imaginary economic war with China.

Bannon also misread Sun Tzu. While Sun Tzu was talking about real war, Bannon was applying a war scenario to the economy - which is by nature very different. Economics is not war.

No war lasts forever. It stops when one side wins and the other side admits defeat. The economy, or rather market competition, never stops. Trying to come up with better and more economic goods has been an ongoing goal of mankind. It goes on at many levels but it never goes away.

You can defeat Apple or any consumer brand in one battle, if you resort to a government's power. But the market of curiosity is always here. So is the demand for new gadgets.

By the same token, you can defeat made-in-China products in a short time - by trying all political means to separate one country's consumers from the value they can get. But Chinese people are always here to build and create their own economy. Usually, they respond with even greater creativity when confronted with difficulties and hostility.

This was also the way the US built itself. Bannon's economic war-mongering, for real or not, is a disgrace for his own nation. Even though Bannon was forced out of the White House, the alt-right warrior will probably go back to run his media outlet and be a more dangerous and divisive voice in the US and the world.

Bannon is "going nuclear" and "unchained," as sources were quoted as saying by US media. Beware of his new war plans.

The author is a Beijing-based financial services executive.


blog comments powered by Disqus