The Tao of Spycraft: Intelligence Theory and Practice in Traditional China

The Tao of Spycraft: Intelligence Theory and Practice in Traditional China

The Tao of Spycraft: Intelligence Theory and Practice in Traditional China

The Tao of Spycraft: Intelligence Theory and Practice in Traditional China

Synopsis

A notable aspect of Sun Tzu's Art of War is its unabashed recommendation for the use of spies. Later Confucian moralists & early Western readers of Sun Tzu expressed, hypocritically, shock & disdain for this open acknowledgment of the benefits of espionage in war & politics. However, it is not just Sun Tzu's work but all of the ancient Chinese military classics that emphasize the role of spies & even praise the moral use of agents in certain situations, such as in avoiding war. In The Tao of Spycraft, Ralph Sawyer unfolds the long & venerable tradition of spycraft in ancient & imperial China.

Excerpt

No nation has practiced the craft of intelligence or theorized about it more extensively than China, filling their military writings with discussions on concepts and techniques, littering their histories and popular literature with records of clandestine activities. Moreover, rather than diminishing in the present era of ostensible peace and harmony, these practices have instead proliferated, expanding to target business and industry equally with governments. However, despite Sun-tzu Art of War being widely acknowledged as the first theoretical writing on agents and methods, and despite the presence of extensive chapters on these subjects in subsequent military texts, the history of intelligence and spycraft in China has never been seriously attempted. in fact, apart from Chu Feng-chia's late Ch'ing dynasty pastiche entitled Chien Shu, the secondary literature is virtually bereft of books devoted to the subject and the many journals devoted to China's history, whether in Chinese, Japanese, or Western languages, devoid of articles. Whereas in pre-twentieth-century China this absence might be attributable to the traditional disdain felt for military affairs in general and the "unrighteous" activity of spying in particular (not unlike the prejudice directed toward intelligence and spycraft in the West), it fails to explain the present lack of interest in China's achievements in the thorny field of intelligence over the millennia. The Tao of Spycraft therefore focuses upon the history and development of both overt intelligence theory and covert practices in China. Even though our subject matter is historically focused, since the prc aggressively deploys thousands of agents of every type throughout the world who are ardently gathering commercial, industrial, and military intelligence, the materials included are not irrelevant to the present day.

Although based upon several years of extensive research in original Chinese materials and hopefully substantial in its conclusions, our study is designed to be accessible to anyone interested in things Chinese--whether history, intellectual developments, or military theory--as well as world military developments and the history of intelligence in general. We have perused in varying detail some fifty . . .

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