Tao Te Ching
THE TAOISM OF LAO TZU
Tao Te Ching
Water flows to the river's outlet, because it's low, because it's the point that yields the most. To Lao Tzu, yielding is foremost a female quality, alike the mother of all, which is Tao. What yields the most attracts the rest of the world.
Another symbol for it would be the sea or lake at which the river ends. The water that flowed so eagerly to get there is absorbed and becomes as still as that great body of water it joined.
So is a big country. It attracts and absorbs its surroundings, without being stirred by this. And so is the female quality, the mother, who in her yielding stillness overcomes the male nature. Movement is calmed by stillness, and force is useless against the yielding.
Now, a great country should not need aggression and force to conquer smaller countries. A yielding stillness is enough. Its size will make smaller countries succumb to it, like the river water flows into the sea. We have seen it a lot through history. Great kingdoms devour small ones, without even trying. They do it by their size alone, as if the force at work were gravity.
Even if a small country momentarily succeeds in conquering a great one, it can only lead to the latter taking over the former. If they are joined, no matter how, it cannot end any other way than with the small country becoming part of the great country.
So, there's never cause for the great country to do other than yield.
Small countries yielding, on the other hand, will quickly be overtaken by great ones. To withstand the natural pull and growth of the great country, they would need to resist actively and constantly. It's not easy, and it's not without dire costs. Of course, trying to conquer the great country by force is equally futile. The only thing a small country can do, when neighboring a great one, is to isolate itself, which also takes its toll.
We have seen it recently in our world, and see it still. Small countries bordering to great ones close those borders firmly, not to be overcome in one way or other. These borders are not only the walls built between the countries and guarded by soldiers. There are cultural borders as well, locking out all possible influence from the great country, also trade walls and diplomatic ones.
Such small countries become isolated islands where progress is halted, and people are stuck to life as it was in the past. It's doomed not to last, but if the leadership is fanatic about this isolation, reform will take time and the road to it will be painful.
What small countries really need, is to participate in both the flow towards the great country and the influence that comes the other way. A country that is lost by doing so, was not much of a country to begin with.
Participation leads to gain, for the small as well as the great country. Small countries will grow if they get more people to serve, whether that's inside or outside their borders. Great countries need lots of people to keep them running.
When people are allowed to comply, wherever they live, things solve themselves. Small countries prosper, because they get more tasks to perform. Great countries prosper, because they get more resources by which to prevail.
So, the only thing that benefits both countries is for the great one to do what is natural for it, which is to yield. If the great country refuses to yield, but conquers with force, it cannot keep at length what it seized. When yielding, the great country still conquers, but because this benefits also the conquered, a lasting harmony will ensue.