Mao argued that the most important rule for a military commander was to preserve and strengthen his forces. He had never been to Russia but had read the Chinese military and literary classics.
Since most of the other leaders had been to Moscow to be indoctrinated in Communist ideology, they considered Mao’s thinking dangerous. However, he came out of the conference co-commander of an army that had lost two-thirds of its troops. Meanwhile, The Japanese were expanding their territory in northeast China, but Chiang Kai-shek was still determined to destroy the Communists.
Mao changed plans and decided to move west toward the fourth Communist army. He decided to take a route so rugged that no one had ever tried it before. He also broke the army into smaller units and scattered them over the countryside so they would be harder to spot from the air. For a time, this fooled the Nationalists.
While moving across the rugged terrain, it was difficult to stay in touch with all the scattered units so Mao used teenagers as couriers. He also had spies keeping track of the Nationalist army’s movements.
Mao’s first significant battle was for control of an important mountain pass and his troops defeated two Nationalist divisions. It was Mao’s first victory as a commander, which helped him gain the trust of the troops.
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