shàn bài zhě bù wáng 善败者不亡
Those Adept at Coping with Defeat Cannot Be Destroyed.
Those who are adept at coping with defeat cannot be destroyed. No party in a war can always be sure of victory and never be defeated. An outstanding commander must not only be skilled at using his advantages when in a position of strength, he must also be adept at coping with disadvantages when in a position of weakness. When defeat is inevitable, he must take the initiative as much as possible and reduce losses to the minimum, thereby avoiding a catastrophic defeat which could lead to an overall breakdown, collapse and destruction. This expression exemplifies the dialectic of seeking to take the initiative when at a disadvantage; it is even more broadly applicable in contemporary society.
Someone skilled in warfare will not readily deploy; someone skilled in deployment will not readily attack; someone skilled in attacking cannot be readily defeated; someone skilled in coping with defeat cannot be readily destroyed. (The History of the Han Dynasty)
Thus if a country’s army is defeated away from home and yet its foundation remains unshaken, it is adept at coping with defeat. (The History of the Song Dynasty)