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"When written in Chinese the word crisis is composed of two characters. One represents danger, and the other represents opportunity."

While the Chinese word for "crisis" may not literally translate to "a dangerous opportunity", that doesn't stop heroes and villains alike from seeing one.

The story goes like this: A crisis occurs. The crisis can be anything; it might be something very, very serious, or might be a relatively minor event manufactured by a character to bring about the trope. Times are harder, or scarier, for everyone, it seems. Except one or more characters or groups of characters, to whom, it's not necessarily a bad thing. Sure, they may have to make sacrifices too, but that's an acceptable loss. Because now they finally have the chance they've been waiting for. Rather than respond appropriately to the crisis and nothing more, the character or group decides to use the situation to their advantage in some way.

While this tactic is commonly used by the Big Bad or Magnificent Bastard, it can also be played positively. The idea that meeting and overcoming a crisis can pave the way to greatness is a pretty common one.

Examples of Let No Crisis Go to Waste include:

Comic Books


  • In the Star Wars prequel trilogy, Senator Palpatine uses fear of the Separatist movement to gain authority. Although he more or less created the Separatist movement in the first place.
  • In Super 8, the kids take advantage of a train crash and the soldiers in town in order to increase the "production values" of their film.

Live Action TV

  • If anything happens in Star Trek, the Ferengi will attempt to carry out this trope.

 Rule of Acquisition #35: War is good for business.[1]


  • This is a main tactic of Petyr Baelish in A Song of Ice and Fire, by his own admission. He creates crises to upset the status quo and take advantage of opportunities that present themselves in the resulting chaos.

Manga and Anime

  • In Code Geass, Lelouch accidentally orders Euphemia to commit genocide, and mere minutes later, grabbed the opportunity to use the incident to start a war.

Myth and Legend

  • According to both myth and historical record, Cao Cao - the King of Wei most known for his starring role in the Romance of the Three Kingdoms - was assessed by a renowned sage, who was famous for always being able to tell someone's true potential. He stated that Cao Cao would be 'A decent administrator in peaceful times, or a blood-stained hero in chaotic times.' A few years later, the long period of civil war known as the Three Kingdoms Period got started, and Cao Cao lived up the prediction by turning the crisis into his opportunity - eventually outmaneuvering both Wu and Shu, and seizing control of all China with the formation of a new Dynasty (it didn't last more than three generations before his trusted strategist, Sima Yi, pulled an Evil Chancellor and seized power for himself - but by then, Cao Cao was several years in the grave, so you can hardly blame him for that).

Video Games

  • As it turns out in the Soviet victory scenario in Red Alert, the entire Russian war effort was a Plan by Kane to expand the USSR, then topple it, and use the ensuing chaos to strengthen the Brotherhood of Nod.
  • In the original Starcraft terran campaign, Mengsk uses the zerg invasion to help himself gain power.

Real Life

  • Both Hitler and Mussolini rose because their respective countries were in shambles following WW 1.
    • This is also how the revolution of 1917 came to pass - if not for World War I's devastating effects on the country, it would've been much harder - if not impossible - to pull off.
  • The British government got a lot of flack for "burying" the release of some bad news about the economy in the aftermath of a train crash.
    • In fact, it seems the most notorious incident involved Jo Moore, who (very consciously) decided to leak some news about council pensions in the immediate aftermath of Nine Eleven.
  • Infamously paraphrased by Rahm Emanuel around the time Barack Obama was elected.
  • Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism is a non-fiction doorstopper of a book about people doing precisely this. A sample quote:

 Hurricane Katrina has just hit New Orleans, what do you do? If you said "privatize public schools", you might just be a conservative.


  1. Rule of Acquisition #34, incidentally, is "Peace is good for business".
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