Deception, Creativity and Self-Destruction (Part-1)

Deception, Creativity and Self Destruction - - Tsuneo "Yama" Yamazaki

Trojan Horse from the movie “Troy”

According to Wikipedia, deception is defined as an act or statement which misleads, hides the truth, or promotes a belief, concept, or idea that is not true. It is often done for personal gain or advantage. Deception can involve dissimulation, propaganda, and sleight of hand, as well as distraction, camouflage, or concealment. Deception is a major relational transgression that often leads to feeling of betrayal and distrust between relational partners. Deception violates relational rules and is considered to be a negative violation of expectations. Most people expect friends, relational partners, and even strangers to be truthful most of the time.

Deceit and dishonesty can also form grounds for civil litigation in tort, or contract law, or give rise to criminal prosecution for fraud. It also forms a vital part of psychological warfare in denial and deception. The following two examples are old and new, the Ancient Greek and today’s China.

Trojan Horse in Ancient History

Major excavations at the site of Troy in 1870, under the direction of German archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann, revealed a small citadel mound and layers of debris 25 meters deep. Later studies have documented the site’s inhabitation from about 3,000 B.C. Recent excavations have shown that the Troy was so big that it is making Troy a significant Bronze Age city, dated to about 1180 B.C.—evidence of a wartime destruction of the city that may have inspired portions of the story of the Trojan War. In Homer’s day, 400 years later, its ruins would have still been visible.

Homer’s tales in the Iliad and the Odyssey tell of the war between the Greeks and the city of Troy. After ten years of an extended conflict and siege, the Greeks supposedly duped the Trojans through the deceptive use of the gift of a large wooden horse. Legend tells that the horse was full of elite Greek warriors (numbers spread between 9 to 30, Odyssey as the leader). Once it was taken inside the impenetrable city walls, Troy was doomed to defeat. In the story we are still given the age-old advice to “Beware of Greeks bearing gifts.”

Deception from Chinese Communist Party

Every person lies, every country lies in their announcements, every cultural group lies in their activities. However, the level of deception from the current Chinese Communist government exceeds far beyond human history level. The followings are statements from the people who are familiar with today’s China:

  1. Robert Spalding: Former US chief China strategist at the Pentagon

-Counterfeiting became the basis for as much as 8% of China’s GDP” (2005 figure). In 2018, The Counterfeit Report, US consumer advocate and industry watchdog, assessed that 80% of the world’s counterfeits—estimated to be a $1.8 trillion industry—are produced in China.

-Chinese regime’s primary strategy … is to literally hide everything that they do.

-The regime’s practices, such as its treatment of Uyghur Muslims in the region of Xinjiang, and the harvesting of organs from prisoners of conscience for profit.

-The regime steals U.S. intellectual property through a variety of channels, including cyber hacking and human sources. For instance, Chinese nationals or ethnic Chinese would work in U.S. companies/research labs, then take the trade secrets back to China.

  1. Michael Pillsbury: “The Hundred-Year Marathon”: China’s Secret Strategy to Replace America as the Global Superpower

-The Chinese deception is at the core of repeated U.S. failures to understand China, Chinese leaders, and their objective of replacing the United States on the world stage since US is ignorant of Chinese strategic culture.

-Chinese leaders are playing a long game, aiming to build up their deterrent capability quietly,” in ways that provide Beijing the opportunity to defeat the United States without creating the visible force that would alert U.S. policymakers and lead to preventive war.

  1. Gil H.A. Santos: Manila Times

-The Chinese dictatorship defends its secret deeds as “defense” moves to “protect” its territorial integrity, implying that Japan, South Korea and Taiwan with their US ally, are a “threat” to vital Chinese commercial shipping plying the South China Sea daily because of their “presence” (translation: military bases and materiel) in the Western Pacific region.

-The Chinese call that “assimilation”—never “invasion” or “occupation” of the tribes, and Tibet—to their society and culture to be the most populous and the biggest economic market of the world today. Beijing’s lie is China, claiming to be “the oldest civilization of the world,” has never invaded nor occupied any other country and therefore should be trusted.

The Art of War: Chinese Source of Deception Culture  

An old Mao Zedong (Father of Communist China) quote is the key to understand today’s China.

“Party, government, military, civilian, and academic; east, west, south, north, and center, the party leads everything.”

This conception of Chinese modernity now imbues the country’s political culture, leaving little to no room for non-party individuals or organizations to claim a leading role in the story of China’s rise. Retired U.S. Navy Commander Mark Metcalf claims: “Chinese military interpretations of the Sun Tzu (the book “The Art of War” written ~2500 years ago, later than Trojan Horse) are key to understanding their rationale for strategy and operations.”

In the book of The Art of War, Sun Tzu quotes:

-All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when we are able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must appear inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near.”

 -Appear weak when you are strong, and strong when you are weak.

-The art of war is of vital importance to the State. It is a matter of life and death, a road either to safety or to ruin. Hence it is a subject of inquiry which can on no account be neglected.

The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Senior Colonel Ma Jun, for example, leans heavily on this interpretation of deception, charging that “War is precisely war. War is precisely a fight to the death (literally: ‘you die and I live’). It is not possible in this domain to pay attention to morality.” Ma notes, however, that such deception is to be used only against adversaries and never against one’s friends and colleagues.

From the perspective of “The Art of War,” deception is a tactic used in the course of defeating one’s enemies in war. Nowhere is it recommended as a strategy for peace. However, once experienced successes in military, it tends to spread to the commercial and government. This causes a huge problem right there. Today, China has become the biggest deception exporting country in the world. Too often people confuse deception with creativity and the reasons are interesting.

Dark Side of Creativity

We prize creativity dearly. If you can produce a novel and useful idea, solution or product, it is what differentiates you from competitors. This is why so many corporate and public sector leaders reported that creativity is the most important quality a leader must have.

However, being creative also has an undeniable dark side—one that can be very costly for companies if left unchecked. So many researches have shown that while creative people are good at creating new ideas, they tend to engage in morally questionable behaviors. Francesca Gino at Harvard Business School and Dan Ariely at Duke University found that creative thinkers are better at rationalizing dishonesty than other thinkers.

They also found that identifying as a creative person can also lead someone to be dishonest. They say that Steve Jobs had a habit of parking his Mercedes in handicap parking spots and driving it without a license plate. Simply put it, they do not follow the rules. They see creativity as rare, and believe that they deserve a bigger prize than others.

What is more troubling is that they might be willing to steal and lie as a result. Their belief in the rareness of creativity and the sense of entitlement that can result from that belief. A typical organization loses approximately 5% of its revenue to fraud, resulting in a global loss of $2.9 trillion annually.

Deception is a Short-Term Solution

Dishonesty leads to heightened creativity, which in turn allows people to come up with creative justifications or cover-ups for their unethical behavior, which in turn makes it more likely they will be dishonest in the future. A cycle of rule-breaking is perpetuated. It is like successful bank robberies. If repeated, one day you are going to be caught and punished for it.

Deception is the main cause of human distrust. It is also the main cause of country distrust. You can spend 10 years to gain other people’s or other country’s trust, yet you can destroy the hard-earned trust in one day by deceiving them. Deception is a short-term and not the best solution. I will discuss in the next Part-2 why this subject is deeply related to intuition.

(Continue to Part-2)