chapter  1
16 Pages

Myth-busting

Challenging the conventional wisdom on Chinese strategic culture
WithAndrew R. Wilson

This chapter explains the five myths: the Great Wall myth, the Sunzi myth, the Good Iron myth, the Zheng He myth, and the myth of shi. Of these five, the first three predate the contemporary emergence of China and were proposed as early as the nineteenth century to explain the apparent contrast between China's military passivity and Europe's martial vigor. The last two are of a more recent vintage, but have quickly joined the mythic pantheon of the Chinese strategic culture discourse. China's abject humiliations in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries convinced many in China that the Chinese lacked a traditional martial ethos. The old adage that good men are not used for soldiers, good iron is not used for nails undergirded this cultural explanation of China's military weakness. China's strategic culture is therefore the antithesis of the Western tradition: a tradition grounded in the cult of the offense and a thirst for imperial expansion.