Mao’s Pervasive Influence on Chinese CEOs – Shaomin Li and Kuang S. Yeh

A new study written about in the Harvard Business Review says that China’s capitalists are deeply influenced by Mao Zedong thought:

Our research on the practices and attitudes of Chinese CEOs offers abundant evidence that Mao’s principles continue to influence top executives: All but one of 15 CEOs we interviewed told us they often turned to Mao’s teachings for management ideas. Consider the manner in which Mao wielded power: by keeping the country in a state of chaotic flux, often playing one group against another. To make a change in the political landscape, Mao would orchestrate a movement that sucked in the entire population, such as the campaign against Liu Shaoqi (the number two leader in the Chinese Communist Party) and his allies, then resort to a mixture of agitation, networking, and rallying to mobilize people at the grass roots to denounce certain cadres, or senior officials. Most of the cadres would be forced out of their jobs, and Mao would rehabilitate a few. Deng Xiaoping was denounced in this manner, rehabilitated, and denounced again.

In our study, conducted with Garry D. Bruton of Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, we found several Chinese chief executives who employ a business version of that tactic: They cement their authority by keeping even senior managers in a constant state of uncertainty, sometimes mobilizing lower-level employees to criticize and pressure mid- and upper-level executives. [Full text]


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