The science of leadership and change: creating tomorrow’s workplaces

Chinese Leadership and Philosophy Quotes

I put together an incredible list of Chinese leadership and philosophy quotes. Chinese history is steeped in different philosophical ideas that have helped mold the leadership culture. I thought I would share some of the best.   P.S. this is part of a series, read some leadership quotes from women philosophers and African-American philosophers

What makes China grow – is it their leadership philosophy?

The Chinese economy grew at 6.6% a year last year, their slowest in a long while.

Many factors can explain their growth, industrial policy, lower wage costs, aggressive negotiating on trade, massive government spending on infrastructure – but how much can be explained by the fact that they run companies very well?

The US hasn’t grown that quickly since 1955 and its average long-term growth rate is around 2.5 percent for the last quarter century or so. By 2025, China will be the world’s largest economy and by 2050, India will also have overtaken the US.

From a Chinese perspective, they were the world’s first large country and its biggest economy until 1800. So, in their eyes, the last decades of Western hegemony have been a blip on their incredibly long history – and they are about to claim their position in the world economy and on the world stage.

They have 3 of the world’s top 10 companies, and 8 of the world’s top 20 in tech.

EVEN If you have heard of Tencent, Alibaba, Xiaomi, Midea, Huawei, you might not have heard of Ma Huateng, Jack Ma, Lei Jun, Fang Hongbo, and Ren Zhengfei.

What do we know about Chinese business leadership and their underlying philosophy?

Not too much.

All we have is the success of their companies and the leaders’ public statements – and as a skeptic, I know there is often a disconnect between public statements about values, and actual values and behavior. However, we do not get much information from behind the silk curtain – so lets take them at their word.

As Confucius warned, “Fine words and an insinuating appearance are seldom associated with true virtue.”

Self-mastery as a theme of Chinese leadership

  • “When we see men of a contrary character, we should turn inwards and examine ourselves.” (Confucius) 
  • “Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power.” (Lao Tzu)
  • “The most primary reason of a company’s successful transformation and upgrading is self-denial,” (Fang Hongbo, Midea)
  • “Ignorance is the night of the mind, but a night without moon and star.” (Confucius)

The level of ambition of Chinese business leadership

  • “He who attends to his greater self becomes a great man, and he who attends to his smaller self becomes a small man.” (Mencius)
  • “We used to grow several-fold a year. But the global economy is a mess, and we grew 33% in the first half of this year. Everybody said, ‘you’re not growing fast enough.’ That’s absurd. We’re still a five-year-old startup. This kind of expectation weighs heavily on us.” (Lei Jun, Xiaomi)
  • “The excellent never regard anyone as their competitor. That is why I always say that I have no competitors. If you consider someone your enemy, then anyone can be your enemy, and vice versa.” (Jack Ma, Alibaba)
  • “Politics is war without bloodshed, while war is politics with bloodshed.” (Chairman Mao)
  • “It is up to the leader’s resolve to overturn everything in the past” (Fang Hongbo, Midea)
  • “Others can imitate my management model, but they can never endure the hardships I have experienced, nor have my passion persistently to push forward.” (Jack Ma, Ablibaba)
  • “Set your sights high, the higher the better. Expect the most wonderful things to happen, not in the future but right now. Realize that nothing is too good. Allow absolutely nothing to hamper you or hold you up in any way.” (Jack Ma, Alibaba)

Humility in Chinese business leadership 

Some Chinese leadership and philosophy quotes on humility

  • “If you ask me what I worry about every morning when I wake up, it’s that I don’t understand future mainstream Internet users’ habits. “(Ma Huateng, Tencent)
  • “Of a good leader, who talks little, When his work is done, his aim fulfilled, They will say, “We did this ourselves.” (Lao Tzu)
  • “The most important thing is to focus, focus, focus.” ( Lei Jun, Xiaomi)
  • “I look at an issue by comparing it with history. A person that has suffered famine and a person that hasn’t will have very different feelings towards a bowl of rice.” (Liu Chuanzhi, Lenovo)
  • “Never has a man who has bent himself been able to make others straight.” (Mencius)
  • “Truth uttered before its time is always dangerous.” (Mencius)

Have a favorite Chinese philosopher or leader? Please share your favorite with me or your audience and tag me, and I’ll do an extended piece on him or her. 



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