the art of war is the focused use of coercive power in utmost conflict. Modern Euro-American beliefabout war converges strategy with politics in Aristotle's "instrumental distinction between ends and means. War is seen as an instrument for obtaining a specific end, usually one that is political."
China's strategic background has regarded art of war as an inexorable, unpredictable evil that disturbs universal harmony. When war occurs, rulers must manage it carefully. WhileEuropean strategists have sought to use greatest force in decisive battle, Chinese commanders have wantedvictory through minimum force.
Chinese strategic culture has consistently rejected "the Western way of warfare, with [its] obsession with winning campaigns and engagements, many of them hollow, or ensuring tactical success often at the value of strategic ruin."
Recognizing rationality as dominant in human affairs, Euro-American military philosophers esteem the human power to control their warlike passions and use war for political ends. War's horrors when passions overcome rationality are less war's nature than people's failures in managing war. In contrast, Asian philosophical traditions distrust the power of instrumental rationality to control human behaviors. China's strategic culture commands rulers and generals to use only the force that is essential to restore domestic order and universal harmony—to control specific means within explicit ends. Facing periodic military crises along China's long land borders and coastlines, China's many neighbors have unsurprising concerns about Beijing's approaches to using force in managing disputes with them.