Joga Bonito

I have touched on the subject that is famously known as “Game Theory” over the course of a number of blog posts. What one cannot lose sight of, however, is the essence of this subject, and the essence of this subject comprises of turning a no-win situation into mutually beneficial outcomes.

Because life is essentially a game, and that the essence of the game is turning a no-win situation into mutually beneficial outcomes, it follows that antipathy grows vis-à-vis politicians in a number of societies as time progresses, given that politicians are essentially locked into a “zero-sum game” whereby the outlook amongst politicians is one shaped by the notion that there are no mutually beneficial outcomes in politics. The outlook predicated upon zero-sum thinking is largely due to the fact that politicians are almost always vexed by a “winner take all” system, and this “winner take all” system is antithetical to the basic essence of the broader game that is life in general.

International politics and international relations are also very much a game with its own set of rules. One of these rules is known as “Bismarck’s Rule of Five.” This rule – which was named after the famous 19th century German leader Otto Von Bismarck – suggests that in order to get its way, one of the five major powers in the international system must have at least two other major powers on its side. With Britain playing an “offshore balancer” role, and with Russia fundamentally opposed to it, the United States must bring China to its side and thus play the infamous “China Card” in order to tilt the balance of power and thus change the course of the game in favor of itself and Europe against Russia.

But bringing China to its side as a counterbalance measure against Russia requires that the United States and Europe change their long-standing “pattern of behavior” towards China. As Henry Kissinger wrote in regards to the long-standing pattern of behavior demonstrated by Western powers vis-à-vis China:

“Deeming themselves more advanced societies, [The West’s] goal was to exploit China for economic gain, not to join its way of life. Their demands were therefore limited only by their resources and their greed. Personal relationships could not be decisive, because the chiefs of the invaders were not neighbors but lived thousands of miles away, where they were governed by motivations obtuse to the subtleness and indirection of the [Chinese] type of strategy.”

Kissinger equated the Western approach towards foreign relations and international politics as one predicated upon a chess mentality, whereas the Chinese approach is predicated upon a Chinese game known as wei qi:

“If chess is about the decisive battle, wei qi is about the protracted campaign. The chess player aims for total victory. The wei qi player seeks relative advantage.”

Kissinger added: “Chess produces single-mindedness; wei qi generates strategic flexibility.” Moreover, given the complex and fluid nature of what is often called “The Great Game,” it follows that success in this game is contingent upon a certain level of flexibility, fluidity, and strategic freedom which many people are not accustomed to in Washington. But with globalization and technology in the picture, the adjustment towards a greater level of flexibility, fluidity, and strategic freedom in order to play the game effectively is long overdue.

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