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For years I’ve been told by my (admittedly political) Chinese friends that Mao Zedong Thought still underpins today’s economic development. They believe Mao continues to guide China forward, and his teachings still help peasants, labourers, stock-brokers, middle-managers, and CEOs make decisions. I’ve sloughed this off off a few times, which is why I was surprised to see today’s article in the Economist.
This article, called “Mao and the art of management,” argues that Mao Zedong Thought might not only be useful for Chinese businessmen, but also western ones too.
It breaks Mao’s lessons down into four segments:

  1. A powerful, mendacious slogan
  2. Ruthless media manipulation
  3. Sacrifice of friends and colleagues
  4. Activity substituting for achievement

Pertaining to the media, the Economist believes that western companies can control the media, just not to the same degree as Mao:

Chief executives are not in a position to crush the media as Mao did. Nevertheless, his handling of them offers some lessons. He talked only to sycophantic journalists and his appeal in the West came mainly from hagiographies written by reporters whose careers were built on the access they had to him.

The law constrains the modern chief executive’s ability to imitate Mao’s PR strategy. Publicly listed companies have to publish information, rather than hand it out selectively. But many, within bounds, emulate Mao’s media management; others, determined to control information about them, are delisting. Burrow beneath laudatory headlines on business and political leaders, and it becomes clear that the strategy works.

The whole story is interesting, in a bizarre way. What a turn of events: western businessmen possibly taking advice from one of Communism’s great heroes.



  1. Zhongnanhai says:


    Today he would have been 114 years old. A lot of candles for a cake that perhaps he may have shunned as being decadent, but still, I don’t doubt that today, December 26th, that there may have been a few…