Go to contents

The weakness of Qi’s imposing army

Posted May. 12, 2020 07:48,   

Updated May. 12, 2020 07:48


The relationship between Guan Zhong and Bao Shuya, the famous officials of the State of Qi, was a byword for true friendship. But its original connotation has more to do with one’s attitude to work for the future of his country rather than simple friendship. In Qi’s heir competition, Guan Zhong initially stood on the opposite side of Duke Huan, and some experts even theorize that the duke was almost killed by him. But Guan Zhong was hired as Duke Huan’s chancellor by Bao Shuya’s recommendation. Guan Zhong quickly sensed the changing tide of the times and proposed an innovative plan to build an invincible army, thereby ushering in a new ear for Qi and presenting Duke Huan with the first throne to China’s Spring and Autumn period.

As one of the seven blocks of the entire China, Qi remains the status of a strong state. Once the era of Duke Huan was over, however, Qi’s reputation as an erstwhile powerhouse began to fade markedly. Qi was like a football club that was better than mediocre but never a bookies’ favorite. Qi had a number of advantages during the unification wars. Shandong where Qi was based was a rich producer of salt and steel. Materiel and fiscal room abounded. The people there were believed to have a bigger build than those from the rest of China, and the location was ideal to recruit the nomad army from Liadong. While the states located near the center were subjected to a ceaseless tug of war, Qi could minimize conflict and accumulate power as it was seated rather remotely in the east.

Then, how come Qi failed to utilize such great qualities it had? Wu Qi, the author of the Wuzi, says that Qi’s army looks imposing but lacks substance. When a military unit appears imposing, it means it is armed well and has everything it needs as a unit. Lack of substance may well be equated with lack of grit and perseverance. How can an imposing army lack substance? Because it was inundated with abundance and security. A desperate person will become an adventurer, and a complacent one will become an opportunist. Opportunists do not venture to find an opportunity; they wait for one to fall from heaven. And this is the poison hidden inside the fruit of security.

Eun-Taek Lee nabi@donga.com