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孫子 (孫武) "Keep your friends close"


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The well known quote "Keep your friends close and your enemies closer" is generally attributed to Sun Tzu (孫子 or 孫武), the famous 6th century BC Chinese military strategist and author of Sun Tzu, The Art of War.

Does anyone know whether this attribution is correct? If so, was it contained in any of his writings and does anyone know the actual hanzi wording he used? I realize the question's a bit obscure but I'd be very interested in knowing.


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I'm currently reading The Art of War by Sun Tzu (English Version), so this is an interesting question for me.

I know that Sun Tzu did mention: "If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles."

Sorry, I realize that this isn't the answer you want, but I hope it helps. If I find another passage that's even closer to the one you want, I'll tell you.

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I can't find the quote in Sun Tzu's "The Art of War."


Some websites also attribute the saying to "The Godfather II" and the Arabs.


58. "Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer," "The Godfather Part II," 1974.


“Keep your friends close - hold your enemies closer”

Arabian Proverb quotes

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I believe that this quote comes from "Niccolo Machiavelli" He also wrote a book called the "Art of War" in the 1400s

Machiavellian quotes:

"Since love and fear can hardly exist together, if we must choose between them, it is far safer to be feared than loved"

“One who deceives will always find those who allow themselves to be deceived.”

“I'm not interested in preserving the status quo; I want to overthrow it.”

“Politics have no relation to morals.”

“If an injury has to be done to a man it should be so severe that his vengeance need not be feared”


his thinking is very western... and does not compliment Sun Tzu

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After some search on Baidu, I came up with this article, which led me to some boarderline Sun Zi quote:

故三军之事,莫亲于间,赏莫厚于间,事莫密于间. --------- 《 孙子兵法,用间第十三》
And a brief translation was found in one of the links Gato wrote up there:
14. Hence it is that which none in the whole army are more intimate relations to be maintained than with spies. None should be more liberally rewarded. In no other business should greater secrecy be preserved. ---------- Art of War, Chapter 13, The Use of Spies
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Yeah, Sun Zi altogether summarized five types of spies. And as the converted type, according to the article I found, could be subdivided into 1) caught/exposed spies who are forced to work for you, 2) unexposed spies whom are secretly made use of, I would say in some aspect, the second subtype seem to fit the English saying...:)

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From Sawyers interpretation the 5 types of spies are:

  • Local spies — employ people from the local district.
  • Internal spies — employ their people who hold government positions
  • Double agents — employ the enemy's spies
  • Expendable spies — are emplyed to spread disinformation outside the state. Provide spies with false information and have them leak it to enemy agents.
  • Living spies — return with their reports

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Chiang Kai-shek did it to Zhang Xueliang and Sun Liren by placing them in house arrest under his watch.

Sun was viewed as a potential "replacement" to Chiang by the White House and US State Department, who viewed Chiang as an incompetent, corrupt leader. After Sun was falsely implicated in a plot to overthrow him, Chiang used the opportunity to place Sun in lifetime house arrest under his watch.

So did Hideyoshi when he sent his most trusted and loyal samurai leaders to invade Korea, while ordering his most potentially dangerous opponents to live by his side in Edo.

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