Handling Internal Affairs Takes Precedence over External Affairs.
A country’s internal affairs must be handled well before its external affairs can be handled well. Zhinei (治内) means that domestic governance has achieved an ideal state; caiwai (裁外) means assessing the broad trends in the world, making external policies, and selecting appropriate political, diplomatic, and military measures to influence the international situation. This tells us a basic principle: a country’s internal governance is the foundation of its external strategy.
If internal affairs are not handled properly, using military force externally will not succeed. (Guanzi)
The founding rulers of the Xia, Shang, and Zhou dynasties did not try to impose order on the land by keeping their distance from some or becoming close to others, nor did the Five Most Powerful Kings of the Spring and Autumn Period discern the broad trends in the world by forming vertical or horizontal alliances. They managed external affairs only after they had handled their internal affairs well. (Hanfeizi)