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Make the Host and the Guest Exchange Places


Disciplines > Warfare > The 36 Stratagems > Make the Host and the Guest Exchange Places

Stratagem | History | Discussion | See also

This stratagem number: 30

This group: Stratagems for Gaining Ground
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Make them dependent on you. This can be done to absorb both allies and enemies.

Infiltrate the enemy with spies and double agents who take on trusted expert roles. Play games of cooperation, using peace talks and treaties. Act first as a guest and then gradually become more dominant.

Take charge of needed resources, from food to water. Become a gatekeeper, with control over desired access to people and things. Become an expert so they have to come to you for knowledge and advice.

Lock them in. Start by giving what you have freely, so they avoid others sources (which hence fade away). Then start charging for it or demanding things in return. Use this to build further power so you can prevent them from going elsewhere.

Another approach is to lure the enemy away from their stronghold so you can march in with little resistance while they are away on a goose chase.

Jealously guard your exclusive abilities and resources. Discount, downplay or defeat those who try to offer similar things.


This is the thirtieth stratagem of thirty-six.

Group name

Stratagems for Gaining Ground

Alternative names

Exchange the Role of Guest for that of Host

Make the Host and the Guest Exchange Places

Or even:

Create Dependency 


Although Liu Bang conquered Qin, he let his stronger ally Xiang Lu take over as ruler. While Xiang Lu relaxed, Liu Bang built up his forces and eventually attacked and conquered Qin (Xiang Lu took his own life in shame).

In the nineteenth century, the British brought opium into China and encouraged its use, thereby weakening any Chinese opposition.

It has been a common ploy for many years for large countries to go to 'help' smaller countries and effectively taking over control.


In Chinese military terminology, the side which fights on their own land is the 'host' and the other force is the 'guest'. The guest may be a stronger force invited as a supportive ally. It may also be a weaker supplicant or an obvious or subtle invader.

The typical strategy is for the host to attack the guest's logistics while the guest attacks the headquarters of the host.

The business world is a constant shifting scene of alliances and takeovers of all kinds. Moving into a new market you may be an effective 'guest' but then become a 'host' as you achieve domination. Locking in customers is also common. Make it easy to join, but hard to leave. Banks are good at this.

See also

Obtain Safe Passage to Conquer the Kingdom of Guo

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