Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung


November 18, 1957

[Excerpts from a speech at the Moscow Meeting of Representatives of the Communist and Workers' Parties. ]

When Chiang Kai-shek started his offensive against us in 1946, many of our comrades and the people of the country were much concerned about whether we could win the war. I myself was concerned. But we were confident of one thing. At that time an American correspondent, Anna Louise Strong, came to Yenan. In an interview, I discussed many questions with her, including Chiang Kai-shek, Hitler, Japan, the United States and the atom bomb. I said all allegedly powerful reactionaries are merely paper tigers. The reason is that they are divorced from the people. Look! Wasn't Hitler a paper tiger? Wasn't he overthrown? I also said that the tsar of Russia was a paper tiger, as were the emperor of China and Japanese imperialism, and see, they were all overthrown. U.S. imperialism has not yet been overthrown and it has the atom bomb, but I believe it too is a paper tiger and will be overthrown. Chiang Kai-shek was very powerful, for he had a regular army of more than four million. We were then in Yenan. What was the population of Yenan? Seven thousand. How many troops did we have? We had 900,000 guerrillas, all isolated by Chiang Kai-shek in scores of base areas. But we said that Chiang Kai-shek was only a paper tiger and that we could certainly defeat him. We have developed a concept over a long period for the struggle against the enemy, namely, strategically we should despise all our enemies, but tactically we should take them all seriously. In other words, with regard to the whole we must despise the enemy, but with regard to each specific problem we must take him seriously. If we do not despise him with regard to the whole, we shall commit opportunist errors. Marx and Engels were but two individuals, and yet in those early days they already declared that capitalism would be overthrown throughout the world. But with regard to specific problems and specific enemies, if we do not take them seriously, we shall commit adventurist errors. In war, battles can only be fought one by one and the enemy forces can only be destroyed one part at a time. Factories can only be built one by one. Peasants can only plough the land plot by plot. The same is even true of eating a meal. Strategically, we take the eating of a meal lightly, we are sure we can manage it. But when it comes to the actual eating, it must be done mouthful by mouthful, you cannot swallow an entire banquet at one gulp. This is called the piecemeal solution and is known in military writings as destroying the enemy forces one by one.

Transcription by the Maoist Documentation Project.
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Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung