Table of contents
- Introduction to Mao Zedong's Leadership
- Mao Zedong's Vision and Decision Making During the Xi'an Incident
- Effective Leadership: Facilitation and Orchestration
- Leadership Dilemma: Democracy vs. Control
- Mao Zedong's Charisma and Legacy
Introduction to Mao Zedong's Leadership
Mao Zedong, the great leader and founding chairman of the People’s Republic of China, also Marxist, proletarian revolutiony, strategist and also theorist, the main founder of the communist party of China the people's liberation army. A half-century of revolution from the foundation of Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in 1921 to Mao’s death in 1976, also from the agriculture to the industrial era, economic development and social changes had made great impacts on China, while Mao Zedong can be fairly regarded as the principal architect of the new nation (Schram, 2019). In this essay, JKM’s ‘Leadership in Action’ framework as an assessment tool to show Mao Zedong is truly a noteworthy, excellent leader in recent Chinese history.
Mao Zedong's Vision and Decision Making During the Xi'an Incident
One of the points of ‘Leadership in Action’ framework is that leaders must see a better world and help other people see it. As a leader, the most important thing is to keep the right direction from the overall situation, striving to seek major benefits while avoiding significant drawbacks during the war. The Xi’an Incident was a political crisis that took place in Xi’an in 1936. Chiang Kai-shek, leader of the Republic of China and Nationalist Party (Kuomintang, KMT), was detained by his subordinates, Generals Zhang Xueliang and Yang Hucheng, to force the ruling Chinese Nationalist Party to change its policies regarding the CCP after 9-year stalemate between the two parties and the dilemma of fighting against the invasion of Empire of Japan (Taylor, 2009). Right after the incident, all the troops of the red army (which were a part of the CCP) and majority members of CCP put forward the idea of “putting Chiang Kai-shek on trial and kill him”. Meanwhile, Mao Zedong had been elected as the standing committee member of CCP at that time, strongly opposing to sentence Chiang Kai-shek and kill him (Hawkins, 2013). In this context, Mao Zedong comprehensively analyzed the current situation that the contradiction between China and Japan was the principal issue they needed to deal with.
Moreover, Chiang Kai-shek’s troop of the Republic of China could contribute significantly to the battlefield of the war while CCP’s troop was not strong enough to fight against the invasive Japanese. As a result, Mao Zedong made an important decision with the peaceful settlement of the Xi’an Incident. Chiang Kai-shek was released by the red army and the famous Kuomingtang-Communist Cooperation was established at that time, which significantly improve Chinese troop’s military capability and have great significance to the final victory of the Chinese Anti-Japanese War (Zhang, 2019). From this case, we can know that as a leader, Mao Zedong could see a better world that he successfully focused on the principal contradiction which was between China and Japan at that time though Chiang Kai-shek’s KMT were continuously suppressed the Red Army and CCP.
Mao Zedong also helped others see the better world that though a majority of CCP member was keeping against Chiang Kai-shek’s KMT, it was more paramount to let people realize that only concentrating all the efforts to fight against the invaders, they could finally reverse the war and save the nation. His wise decision to release the detained Chiang Kai-shek and reach the Kuomingtang-Communist Cooperation was the turning point to change the situation of the Anti-Japanese War.
Effective Leadership: Facilitation and Orchestration
Another important component of ‘Leadership in Action’ framework is that the most effective leaders are facilitators and Orchestrators while no one can do everything by themselves to approach the final goal. Though Mao Zedong was talent at making strategies during the Anti-Japanese war, it was more important for him to properly allocate his subordinates into the most suitable positions and functions because Mao Zedong couldn’t handle everything during the war by himself. He could figure out his subordinates’ different personalities and specialties and took the corresponding measures according to each person’s shortcomings and competitiveness.
For example, some people were not good at commanding operations during the battlefield, but they were good at logistics, Mao Zedong then promptly transferred these people from their combat positions to engage in logistics. The fact that he selected many military officers for political work from the battlefield also was an example of his personnel strategy. More specifically, Lin Biao was good at making battle strategies, but he was introverted, sometimes eccentric, not good at ideological and political work. Moreover, he was usually with a silent appearance when working with others, making his subordinates felt quite difficult to work and cooperate with him. Simultaneously, Luo Ronghuan was an excellent cadre of political and governmental works, with flexibility and firm principles on daily issues. As a result, Mao Zedong combined Luo Ronghuan and Lin Biao as ‘partner’, and after that, they made invincible tracks from Jinggang Mountain to Taihang Mountain. On the other hand, Liu Bocheng’s leadership style was cautious, considerate, he would do anything without making any mistakes while Deng Xiaoping, was bold and daring, who was likely to take risky adventures and decisions.
Mao Zedong put these two talent generals together and they could successfully complement each other’s drawbacks (Wu, 2019). They then kept a close relationship over the decades and made many important victories during the Anti-Japanese War. Furthermore, Mao Zedong’s wise allocation to these subordinates also helps promote them and accelerate their careers. As we all know, Deng Xiaoping finally became the second chair of CCP and made a significant contribution to the newly established PR China after the Cultural Revolution.
Leadership Dilemma: Democracy vs. Control
However, there is also an issue called the leadership dilemma in ‘Leadership in Action’ framework that people prefer democracy and safety, but leaders take control, reducing democracy. Though Mao Zedong provided great contributions during world war II and to the newly established China, he virtually made some significant mistakes in the later years of his regime. Besides, under Mao Zedong’s control, China was more likely to be a dictatorship regime since anyone in CCP who made criticism or opposition to Mao Zedong’s decision, he will immediately be sentenced or dismissed, whatever high position he was. For instance, China’s ‘the Great Leap Forward’ was an economic and social campaign launched by Mao Zedong and other senior leadership of CCP Central Committee from 1958 to 1962, which was a socialist construction that sought to exploit the abundant local labor force and the vigorous enthusiasm for the masses to increase industrial and agricultural production in an unrealistic way.
Because the campaign was divorced from reality, people’s enthusiasm for making agricultural production was seriously hurt after it was promoted throughout the country. Moreover, the output of the grain was unsteady, people’s willingness to produce also was significantly reduced, leading to years of famine in China. The grandiosity and problems associated with the Great Leap Forward were soon exposed and incurred lots of doubts and criticisms within and outside the party. The disagreements from inner-party particular top leadership were escalating and even split the whole party. Peng Dehuai, one of the greatest Chinese Communist military leaders and served as China’s Defense Minister at that time, was sent to the prison and dismissed from his position because of his criticism of Mao Zedong’s stubborn advocation of the Great Lead Forward. Simultaneously, CCP founding members who supported Peng Dehuai’s opinions, including Huang KEcheng, Zhang Wentian, Zhou Xiaozhou, were also implicated under Mao Zedong’s control.
As a result, the campaign of the Great Leap Forward didn’t stop on time, adversely, it prevailed over the country and significantly damage the economics and social regulations (Lu, 2017). A similar case associated with the leadership dilemma was the Great Cultural Revolution, which was a sociopolitical movement lunched by Mao Zedong from 1966 to 1976, to enforce people to learn and accept Maoism as the dominant ideology in CCP of China. The revolution damaged China’s economy and killed an estimated 500000 to 2000000 people (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2019). On the other hand, from this case, we can also found that Mao Zedong’s value drove his action and take a stand, which is one of the important components of Leadership in Action framework.
Mao Zedong's Charisma and Legacy
Though Mao Zedong made some mistakes regarding the leadership dilemma in ‘Leadership in Action’ framework, it’s no doubt that he is a charismatic leader who can influence others in great depth. Most of the time of the half-century, it is also unquestioned that Mao Zedong is a great leader of the communist revolution, though sometimes he was not totally or universally respected (Dirlik, 2012). Based on the analysis of Mao Zedong’s leadership ability, I can conclude that he is truly an excellent and noteworthy leader in recent China’s history. He could help his subordinates see a better world under emergency and paramount situation, he also could properly allocate and take good use of his subordinates in the best positions and functions, as we all know ‘One finger cannot lift a pebble’, Mao Zedong’s personnel strategy helped him achieve his goal more efficiently. Though he made some mistakes during his later years of the regime, what he contributed to the new China is invaluable. As a leader, his charism also attracted contemporary Chinese people and many foreign politicians. A lot of studies and research about his leadership strategies are continuously conducting nowadays.
- Dirlik, A. (2012). Mao Zedong: Charismatic leadership and the contradictions of socialist revolution. (1st ed., pp. 117) Berghahn Books.
- Encyclopedia Britannica. (2019). A Brief Overview of China's Cultural Revolution.
- Hawkins, J. (2013). Mao Zedong
- Lu, X. (2017). The rhetoric of Mao Zedong: Transforming China and its people. US: University of South Carolina Press.
- Schram, S. (2019). Mao Zedong. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/biography/Mao-Zedong
- Taylor, Jay (2009). The Generalissimo. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
- Wu, J. (2019). Mao Zedong’s personnel strategy. Retrieved from http://www.cwzg.cn/history/201904/48089.html
- Zhang, F. (2019). The art of Mao Zedong’s strategy of making decisions. Retrieved from http://www.nfzz.net.cn/epaper/fb/300/content/2019-03/25/content_186292004.htm?from=singlemessage