This is from some ancient Chinese work. A superb read and a superb one to follow.
Chapter 1: Winning Stratagems (Shèng zhàn jì) How to win as a general.
Cross the sea without the emperor’s knowledge (Mán tiān guò hǎi)
Mask your real goals, by using the ruse of a fake goal, until the real goal is achieved. Tactically, this is known as an ‘open feint’: in front of everyone, you point west, when your goal is actually in the east.
Besiege Wèi to rescue Zhào (Wéi Wèi jiù Zhào)
When the enemy is too strong to be attacked directly, then attack something he holds dear. Know that he cannot be superior in all things. Somewhere there is a gap in the armour, a weakness that can be attacked instead. The idea here is to avoid a head-on battle with a strong enemy, and instead strike at his weakness elsewhere. This will force the strong enemy to retreat in order to support his weakness. Battling against the now tired and low-morale enemy will give a much higher chance of success.
Kill with a borrowed sword (Jiè dāo shā rén)
Attack using the strength of another (in a situation where using one’s own strength is not favourable). Trick an ally into attacking him, bribe an official to turn traitor, or use the enemy’s own strength against him. The idea here is to cause damage to the enemy by getting a third party to do the deed.
Wait at leisure while the enemy labors (Yǐ yì dài láo)
It is an advantage to choose the time and place for battle. In this way you know when and where the battle will take place, while your enemy does not. Encourage your enemy to expend his energy in futile quests while you conserve your strength. When he is exhausted and confused, you attack with energy and purpose. The idea is to have your troops well-prepared for battle, in the same time that the enemy is rushing to fight against you. This will give your troops a huge advantage in the upcoming battle, of which you will get to select the time and place.
Loot a burning house (Chèn huǒ dǎ jié)
When a country is beset by internal conflicts, when disease and famine ravage the population, when corruption and crime are rampant, then it will be unable to deal with an outside threat. This is the time to attack. Keep gathering internal information about an enemy. If the enemy is currently in its weakest state ever, attack it without mercy and totally destroy it to prevent future troubles.
Make a sound in the east, then strike in the west (Shēng dōng jī xī)
In any battle the element of surprise can provide an overwhelming advantage. Even when face to face with an enemy, surprise can still be employed by attacking where he least expects it. To do this you must create an expectation in the enemy’s mind through the use of a feint. The idea here is to get the enemy to focus his forces in a location, and then attack elsewhere which would be weakly defended.
Chapter 2: Enemy Dealing Stratagems (Dí zhàn jì) How to deal with an opponent who is openly your enemy.
Create something from nothing (Wú zhōng shēng yǒu)
A plain lie. Make somebody believe there was something when there is in fact nothing. One method of using this strategy is to create an illusion of something’s existence, while it does not exist. Another method is to create an illusion that something does not exist, while it does.
Openly repair the gallery roads, but sneak through the passage of Chencang (Míng xiū zhàn dào, àn dù Chéncāng)
Deceive the enemy with an obvious approach that will take a very long time, while surprising him by taking a shortcut and sneak up to him. As the enemy concentrates on the decoy, he will miss you sneaking up to him. This tactic is an extension of the “Make a sound in the east, then strike in the west” tactic. But instead of simply spreading misinformation to draw the enemy’s attention, physical baits are used to increase the enemy’s certainty on the misinformation. These baits must be easily seen by the enemy, to ensure that they draw the enemy’s attention. At the same time, the baits must act as if they are meant to do what they were falsely doing, to avoid drawing the enemy’s suspicion.
Watch the fires burning across the river (Gé àn guān huǒ)
Delay entering the field of battle until all the other players have become exhausted fighting amongst themselves. Then go in at full strength and pick up the pieces.
Hide a knife behind a smile (Xiào lǐ cáng dāo)
Charm and ingratiate yourself with your enemy. When you have gained his trust, move against him in secret.
Sacrifice the plum tree to preserve the peach tree (Lǐ dài táo jiāng)
There are circumstances in which you must sacrifice short-term objectives in order to gain the long-term goal. This is the scapegoat strategy whereby someone else suffers the consequences so that the rest do not.
Take the opportunity to pilfer a goat (Shùn shǒu qiān yáng)
While carrying out your plans be flexible enough to take advantage of any opportunity that presents itself, however small, and avail yourself of any profit, however slight.
Chapter 3: Attacking Stratagems (Gōng zhàn jì)
Stomp the grass to scare the snake (Dá cǎo jīng shé)
Do something unaimed, but spectacular (“hitting the grass”) to provoke a response of the enemy (“startle the snake”), thereby giving away his plans or position, or just taunt him. Do something unusual, strange, and unexpected as this will arouse the enemy’s suspicion and disrupt his thinking. More widely used as “[Do not] startle the snake by hitting the grass”. An imprudent act will give your position or intentions away to the enemy.
Borrow a corpse to resurrect the soul (Jiè shī huán hún)
Take an institution, a technology, a method, or even an ideology that has been forgotten or discarded and appropriate it for your own purpose. Revive something from the past by giving it a new purpose or bring to life old ideas, customs, or traditions and reinterpret them to fit your purposes.
Lure the tiger off its mountain lair (Diào hǔ lí shān)
Never directly attack an opponent whose advantage is derived from its position. Instead lure him away from his position thus separating him from his source of strength.
In order to capture, one must let loose (Yù qín gū zòng)
Cornered prey will often mount a final desperate attack. To prevent this you let the enemy believe he still has a chance for freedom. His will to fight is thus dampened by his desire to escape. When in the end the freedom is proven a falsehood the enemy’s morale will be defeated and he will surrender without a fight.
Tossing out a brick to get a jade gem (Pāo zhuān yǐn yù)
Bait someone by making him believe he gains something or just make him react to it (“toss out a brick”) and obtain something valuable from him in return (“get a jade gem”).
Defeat the enemy by capturing their chief (Qín zéi qín wáng)
If the enemy’s army is strong but is allied to the commander only by money, superstition or threats, then take aim at the leader. If the commander falls the rest of the army will disperse or come over to your side. If, however, they are allied to the leader through loyalty then beware, the army can continue to fight on after his death out of vengeance.
Chapter 4: Chaos Stratagems
Remove the firewood from under the pot (Fǔ dǐ chōu xīn)
Take out the leading argument or asset of someone; “steal someone’s thunder”. This is the very essence of indirect approach: instead of attacking enemy’s fighting forces, the attacks are directed against his ability to wage war. Literally, take the fuel out of the fire.
Disturb the water and catch a fish (Hún shuǐ mō yú)
Create confusion and use this confusion to further your own goals.
Slough off the cicada’s golden shell (Jīn chán tuō qiào)
Mask yourself. Either leave one’s distinctive traits behind, thus becoming inconspicuous, or masquerade as something or someone else. This strategy is mainly used to escape from enemy of superior strength.
Shut the door to catch the thief (Guān mén zhuō zéi)
To capture your enemy, or more generally in fighting wars, to deliver the final blow to your enemy, you must plan prudently if you want to succeed. Do not rush into action. Before you “move in for the kill”, first cut off your enemy’s escape routes, and cut off any routes through which outside help can reach them.
Befriend a distant state and strike a neighbouring one (Yuǎn jiāo jìn gōng)
Invading nations that border your own territory has a higher chance of success. The battle fields are close to your own country, thus it is easier for your troops to get supply and to defend the conquered land. Make allies with nations far away from you, as it is unwise to invade them.
Obtain safe passage to conquer the State of Guo (Jiǎ dào fá Guó)
Borrow the resources of an ally to attack a common enemy. Once the enemy is defeated, use those resources to turn on the ally that lent you them in the first place.
Chapter 5: Proximate Stratagems
Replace the beams with rotten timbers (Tōu liáng huàn zhù)
Disrupt the enemy’s formations, interfere with their methods of operations, change the rules in which they are used to following, go contrary to their standard training. In this way you remove the supporting pillar, the common link that makes a group of men an effective fighting force.
Point at the mulberry tree while cursing the locust tree (Zhǐ sāng mà huái)
To discipline, control, or warn others whose status or position excludes them from direct confrontation; use analogy and innuendo. Without directly naming names, those accused cannot retaliate without revealing their complicity.
Feign madness but keep your balance (Jiǎ chī bù diān)
Hide behind the mask of a fool, a drunk, or a madman to create confusion about your intentions and motivations. Lure your opponent into underestimating your ability until, overconfident, he drops his guard. Then you may attack.
Remove the ladder when the enemy has ascended to the roof (Shàng wū chōu tī)
With baits and deceptions, lure your enemy into treacherous terrain. Then cut off his lines of communication and avenue of escape. To save himself, he must fight both your own forces and the elements of nature.
Deck the tree with false blossoms (Shù shàng kāi huā)
Tying silk blossoms on a dead tree gives the illusion that the tree is healthy. Through the use of artifice and disguise, make something of no value appear valuable; of no threat appear dangerous; of no use appear useful.
Make the host and the guest exchange roles (Fǎn kè wéi zhǔ)
Usurp leadership in a situation where you are normally subordinate. Infiltrate your target. Initially, pretend to be a guest to be accepted, but develop from inside and become the owner later.
Chapter 6: Desperate Stratagems
The beauty trap (Honeypot) (Měi rén jì)
Send your enemy beautiful women to cause discord within his camp. This strategy can work on three levels. First, the ruler becomes so enamoured with the beauty that he neglects his duties and allows his vigilance to wane. Second, the group of men will begin to have issues if the desired women courts another man, thus creating conflict and aggressive behavior. Third, other females at court, motivated by jealousy and envy, begin to plot intrigues further exacerbating the situation.
The empty fort strategy (Kōng chéng jì)
When the enemy is superior in numbers and your situation is such that you expect to be overrun at any moment, then drop all pretense of military preparedness, act calmly and taunt the enemy, so that the enemy will think you have a huge ambush hidden for them. It works best by acting calm and at ease when your enemy expects you to be tense. This ploy is only successful if in most cases you do have a powerful hidden force and only sparsely use the empty fort strategy.
Let the enemy’s own spy sow discord in the enemy camp (Fǎn jiàn jì)
Undermine your enemy’s ability to fight by secretly causing discord between him and his friends, allies, advisors, family, commanders, soldiers, and population. While he is preoccupied settling internal disputes, his ability to attack or defend is compromised.
Inflict injury on oneself to win the enemy’s trust (Kǔ ròu jì)
Pretending to be injured has two possible applications. In the first, the enemy is lulled into relaxing his guard since he no longer considers you to be an immediate threat. The second is a way of ingratiating yourself with your enemy by pretending the injury was caused by a mutual enemy.
Chain stratagems (Lián huán jì)
In important matters, one should use several stratagems applied simultaneously after another as in a chain of stratagems. Keep different plans operating in an overall scheme; however, in this manner if any one strategy fails, then the chain breaks and the whole scheme fails.
If all else fails, retreat (Zǒu wéi shàng ce)
If it becomes obvious that your current course of action will lead to defeat, then retreat and regroup. When your side is losing, there are only three choices remaining: surrender, compromise, or escape. Surrender is complete defeat, compromise is half defeat, but escape is not defeat. As long as you are not defeated, you still have a chance.