200 AD, Yuan Shao, with territories north of the Yellow River had a military strength of over 100,000. Across the river in the south, was Cao Cao with an army of only 30,000, still recovering from a recent battle.
Yuan Shao was fully confident of victory as he crossed the river to attack Cao Cao. His commander Ju Shou and advisor Tian Feng were the only ones against the move. Ju Shou lamented that his future was uncertain with the leader desperate to conquer and his subordinates desperate to claim credit.
“救乱诛暴，谓之义兵。恃众凭强，谓之骄兵。义者无敌，骄兵必败.” – 沮授
Ju Shou also said: An ethical army would only use violence to suppress cruelty. An army that depends on numbers to intimidate others is an arrogant bully. An ethical army keeps absorbing allies till it becomes invincible. An arrogant army is ostracized and doomed to fail. Ju Shou was spot on. Cowards on Cao Cao’s side defected to Yuan Shao’s side. Men of talent and principles on Yuan Shao’s side defected to Cao Cao’s side. Ju Shou remained loyal to Yuan Shao. When captured after Yuan Shao’s defeat, Ju Shou refused to surrender and was executed.
This battle is called 官渡之战 which is even more instructive (albeit less dramatic) than 赤壁。1800 years thence, the likes of Yuan Shao and his sycophants still exist.