Sun Tzu’s influence in Mao Zedong’s military writings

mao1939In December 1935 Mao Zedong did his historic report which he called “On Tactics Against Japanese Imperialism”. In the midst of the current imperialist onslaught on South Africa, BLF references this report in its campaign – #HandsOffZumaEconomicLiberationNow! In the said report the challenges relating to the political line of the Party during the Second Revolutionary Civil War were successfully addressed by Mao. Following the 1935 report, he wrote “Problems of strategy in China’s Revolutionary War” in 1936, to consolidate the experience of the Second Revolutionary Civil War and to clarify the problems experienced in the war.

It must be stated that Mao adopted Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War” concepts in his revolutionary writings. It is also important to note that both Sun Tzu and The Art of War were rejected during Confucianism. To this end “The Art of War” was relegated to the dustbin until accessed by Chaiman Mao during the war against China’s nationalists and the imperialists in the 1930s.

The following extract from “Problems of strategy in China’s Revolutionary War”, which was previously published in the website, is a sample demonstration of the influence of Sun Tzu’s classic in Mao’s military writings:


It is inappropriate to advocate a “contest of attrition” for the Chinese Red Army today. A “contest of treasures” not between Dragon Kings but between a Dragon King and a beggar would be rather ludicrous. For the Red Army which gets almost all its supplies from the enemy, war of annihilation is the basic policy. Only by annihilating the enemy’s effective strength can we smash his “encirclement and suppression” campaigns and expand our revolutionary base areas. Inflicting casualties is a means of annihilating the enemy, or otherwise there would be no sense to it. We incur losses ourselves in inflicting casualties on the enemy, but we replenish ourselves by annihilating his units, thereby not only making good our losses but adding to the strength of our army. A battle in which the enemy is routed is not basically decisive in a contest with a foe of great strength. A battle of annihilation, on the other hand, produces a great and immediate impact on any enemy. Injuring all of a man’s ten fingers is not as effective as chopping off one, and routing ten enemy divisions is not as effective as annihilating one of them.

Our policy for dealing with the enemy’s first, second, third and fourth “encirclement and suppression” campaigns was war of annihilation. The forces annihilated in each campaign constituted only part of his total strength’, and yet all these “encirclement and suppression” campaigns were smashed. In our fifth counter-campaign, however, the opposite policy was pursued, which in fact helped the enemy to attain his aims.

War of annihilation entails the concentration of superior forces and the adoption of encircling or outflanking tactics. We cannot have the former without the latter. Conditions such as popular support, favourable terrain, a vulnerable enemy force and the advantage of surprise are all indispensable for the purpose of annihilation.

Merely routing one enemy force or permitting it to escape has meaning only if, in the battle or campaign as a whole, our main force is concentrating its operations of annihilation against another enemy force, or otherwise it is meaningless. Here the losses are justified by the gains.

In establishing our own war industry we must not allow ourselves to become dependent on it. Our basic policy is to rely on the war industries of the imperialist countries and of our domestic enemy. We have a claim on the output of the arsenals of London as well as of Hanyang, and, what is more, it is delivered to us by the enemy’s transport corps. This is the sober truth, it is not a jest”.

5 December 2016

Issued By Black First Land First

National Secretariat for Political Education

Contact details

Black First Land First Email:[email protected]

Facebook: Black First Land First | Twitter: @black1stland1st


National Secretary for Political Education: Neo Mokatsanyane

Cell number: 0814167288

Email: [email protected]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *