This research applied the methods of social science, instead of the traditional approaches of humanities such as literature, philosophy, and history, to explore the strategic thoughts of Pre-Qin to understand how those strategic thinkers sought for survival and development in the midst of highly competitive surroundings in that era.
This study assumed that the strategic thoughts of Pre-Qin were changing and evolving, and should not be considered as the products of the same time and space circumstances. Therefore, this study utilized the concepts of paradigm and paradigm shift to depict the changing process. Because “thought” was subjective constructed by human consciousness, there were specific infused cultural elements and underlying social constructed assumptions. Taking a positivist stance in this research would have its limitations. Consequently, a post-positivist research was conducted by utilizing theoretical reflectivity through interpretation and literature analysis. While studying the theories of strategic thoughts from various schools, this research explored the political, social, and cultural backgrounds of the formation of various schools to clarify the relevance of those paradigms of strategic thoughts, by applying hermeneutic circle principles as well as experiential and logical judgments.
This study found that the schools of strategic thought of Pre-Qin included Guanzi school, Confucius school, Shangyang school, Mengzi school,
Xunzi school, and Laozi school. Mozi and Zhuangzi did not expound on strategic subjectivity and objectivity, therefore, they were not considered as strategic thinkers. The main difference among those schools was the strategic choice: some schools preferred realistic means while others preferred idealistic approaches. This study considered their strategic choice varied within a continuum and utilized the spectrum between “realism and idealism” as an analytical tool to differentiate those schools as well as to determine their relevance.