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Obtain Safe Passage to Conquer the Kingdom of Guo


Disciplines > Warfare > The 36 Stratagems > Obtain Safe Passage to Conquer the Kingdom of Guo

Stratagem | History | Discussion | See also

This stratagem number: 24

This group: Stratagems for Confused Situations
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When two of your enemies are in conflict with one another, intervene on behalf of one of them.

Alternatively when two other countries are at peace with one another, bribe or coerce one to help you conquer the third country. At the very least get a promise that they will not intervene when you attack the third party.

This will give you influence over both as the one who you help will be grateful while the other will be fearful of your alliance. When you have conquered the third country, you can then turn your expanded forces on the original ally.

This method works best if you have greater strength in comparison with the other parties.


This is the twenty-fourth stratagem of thirty-six.

Group name

Stratagems for Confused Situations

Alternative names

Borrow a Route to Conquer Guo

Borrow the Road to Conquer Guo

Borrow the Right of Way to Attack the Neighbor

Obtain Safe Passage to Conquer the Kingdom of Guo

Attack Hu by a Borrowed Path

Or even:

Alliances Are Not Forever

Lean on the Little Guy

Create a Common Enemy 


In 658 BC Jin wanted to conquer the smaller states of Yu and Guo, but could not while these remained allies. Jin first started border skirmishes with Guo and then gave the lord of Yu gifts to allow passage over Guo land. Now beholden to the larger Jin, Yu helped further as Jin defeated Guo. The king of Jin then distracted the lord of Yu with a hunting trip while a Jin general, who had been faking illness, conquered Yu while the lord and his best men were away.

In the Vietnamese war, the Americans 'borrowed' airbases in the Philippines while the Vietcong moved into Cambodia to avoid air attacks.

In business, large companies often use temporary alliances with smaller companies to gain them market advantage, for example by getting them to produce compatible products. When the advantage is secure the larger company may take over or attack the smaller company with its own version of the supplementary product.


The principle of 'borrowing' can be used in may ways. Borrowing seems like a temporary and friendly act that will be reciprocated in some way. At the very least, the gains made are likely to be worth any repayment. In practice, help is not always repaid and can rebound on the helper as the borrower reneges on the detail and may yet attack the lender.

This stratagem works best when the borrower is more powerful. Countries (and people) like to keep powerful others friendly and so will tend to concede more. Powerful people, however, may not be that trustworthy and may take advantage of a smaller ally knowing that the party cannot take revenge for a betrayal.

While the original form of this principle involves betrayal of trust, this does not have to be the case. If you can find mutual benefit with others by whatever means then this can only be good.

A form of borrowing that is common now is networking, where we 'make friends' with people from whom we need help.

See also

Power, Symmetry in War


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