How we change what others think, feel, believe and do
Deck the Tree with Bogus Blossoms
This stratagem number: 29
Appear powerful even when you actually have far less power.
Make it appear that you have more soldiers, weapons and other resources to keep a stronger enemy at bay. Use focused displays of aggression, power and skill.
In reverse, you can appear weak to tempt forward a weaker enemy.
Broadly, you can make things seem more than they are by adding items that have no real worth, or by hiding your real ability until needed.
This is the twenty-ninth stratagem of thirty-six.
Stratagems for Gaining Ground
Deck the Tree with False Blossoms
Tie Silk Blossoms to the Dead Tree
Put Fake Blossoms on the Tree
Make Flowers Bloom in the Tree
Pretend to be More Than You Are
Dazzle and Decoy
The emperor Yangdi tried to impress travelling merchants with such as grand concerts and free feasts. He even put silk flowers on winter trees to make it appear as if spring had already appeared.
Yu Xu was blocked at a pass by the Qiang tribe. He spread word that he was waiting for reinforcements, resulting in many Qiang warriors leaving for other action. When Qiang were depleted, Yu Xu's force then punched their way through the weakened enemy line. When Qiang gave chase, Yu Xu ordered double the number of campfires to be set each night and so reached Wudu. There, he got his men to shoot small arrows a short distance, encouraging Qiang to come closer, whereupon he set the full power of his archers on them. After that he sent his soldiers out through one gate and in through another, when they changed clothes and repeated the move, again appearing as a larger force. Qiang retreated but fell into an ambush where they were defeated.
Power is not just the real potential you have, it is also the assumptions of your power that others afford you. You can create illusions to help this and so create caution and fear where none is really needed.
Most people seek to avoid many risks. In war, taking the wrong risks can be fatal, so assessing the power and potential of the enemy is essential.
This Stratagem can backfire, for example where Saddam Hussein in Iraq let it be thought he had more weapons than he actually did. Following a short war, he was defeated, tried and executed.
In business, making the company and products appear more than they are is commonly used in marketing, where appearance can be more important than reality. Companies that appear larger than they are engender more trust. However, this may lead to competitors fighting harder against you, so intelligent caution may be needed.