Sun Tzu and the Art of Becoming Famous

How did Sun Tzu and The Art of War become synonymous with strategy in the West?

Chinese warlord Cao Cao – who wrote one of the earliest military commentaries to Sun Tzu’s Art of War – meeting with politician Hua Xin, Chinese, late 19th-early 20th century. Album/Alamy Stock Photo.

Sunzi’s (Sun Tzu) Art of War is rightly seen in China and the West as one of the greatest works on strategy ever written. ‘Sun Tzu’ is invoked not only in books on war, but on business and dating, and is presented in the West as the key to understanding the current strategy of the Chinese government. For most people Sunzi is the only strategist they know and the Art of War is the only work on strategy they may have read. Yet there was no individual Sunzi (‘Master Sun’) and the interpretation in the West of the work attributed to him is based much more upon a modern Anglo-American reading than anything produced in China over the last two millennia.

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