Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung
September 7, 1942
[This editorial was written by Comrade Mao Tse-tung for the Liberation Daily, Yenan.]
Ever since the Central Committee of the Party put forward the policy of "better troops and simpler administration",  the Party organizations in many anti-Japanese base areas have been applying it, or making plans to apply it, in accordance with the directives of the Central Committee. The leading comrades of the Shansi-Hopei-Shantung-Honan border area have really taken this work in hand, setting an example of "better troops and simpler administration". In some base areas, however, the comrades have not tried to do so very seriously because of their incomplete comprehension of this policy. They still fail to understand how it is related to the current situation and to other Party policies, or fail to regard it as most important. This matter has been discussed several times before in the Liberation Daily and we now wish to explain it further.
All the Party's policies aim at the defeat of the Japanese invaders. From the fifth year onward, the War of Resistance has in fact entered the final stage of the struggle for victory. In this stage the situation is different from that in the first and second years of the war, and also from that in the third and fourth. A feature of the fifth and sixth years of the war is that while victory is drawing near, there are very great difficulties ahead; in other words, we are in the "darkness before the dawn". This situation prevails at the present stage in all the anti-fascist countries, and in the whole of China as well; it is not confined to the base areas of the Eighth Route Army and the New Fourth Army, although it is particularly acute here. We are striving to defeat the Japanese invaders in two years. They will be years of extreme difficulty, differing greatly from the first and second two years of the war. This particular point must be anticipated by the leading personnel in the revolutionary party and revolutionary army. Should they fail to do so, they will simply drift with events and, no matter how hard they try, they will not be able to attain victory and may even jeopardize the cause of the revolution. Although the situation in the anti-Japanese base areas in the enemy rear is already several times as difficult as before, the difficulty is not yet extreme. If we do not have a correct policy now, then extreme difficulty will overtake us. People in general are liable to judge by past and present conditions and to be misled into thinking that the future will be much the same. They are unable to anticipate that the ship may encounter submerged rocks or to steer clear of these rocks with cool heads. What are the submerged rocks in the path of the ship of the War of Resistance? They are the extremely grave material difficulties of the final stage of the war. The Central Committee of the Party has pointed them out and called on us to be on the alert and steer clear of them. Many of our comrades already understand the point but some do not, and that is the first obstacle we must overcome. There is the need for unity in the War of Resistance, and unity involves difficulties. These difficulties are political; they have occurred in the past and may occur again in the future. For five years, our Party has been overcoming them gradually and with the utmost effort; our slogan is to strengthen unity, and we must keep on doing so. But there are difficulties of another kind, the material ones. They will grow more and more acute. Today some comrades are still taking it easy and are not alive to the situation, and we must therefore alert them. All comrades in all the anti-Japanese base areas must recognize that from now on the material difficulties are bound to grow graver, that we must overcome them and that one important way of doing so is "better troops and simpler administration".
Why is the policy of better troops and simpler administration important for overcoming the material difficulties? It is clear that the present, and still more the future, war situation in the base areas will not permit us to cling to our past views. Our enormous war apparatus is suited to past conditions. It was then permissible and necessary. But things are different now, the base areas have shrunk and may continue to shrink for a period, and undoubtedly we cannot maintain the same enormous war apparatus as before. There is already a contradiction, which we must resolve, between our war apparatus and the war situation. The enemy's objective is to aggravate this contradiction, hence his policy of "burn all, kill all, loot all". If we maintain our enormous apparatus, we shall fall right into his trap. If we reduce it and have better troops and simpler administration, our war apparatus, though reduced, will remain strong. By resolving the contradiction, which is that of "a big fish in shallow water", and by adapting our war apparatus to the war situation, we shall prove even stronger, and so far from being defeated by the enemy we shall finally defeat him. That is why we say that the policy of "better troops and simpler administration" put forward by the Central Committee of the Party is a most important policy.
But men's minds are liable to be fettered by circumstance and habit from which even revolutionaries cannot always escape. We created this enormous apparatus ourselves, little thinking that one day we ourselves would have to reduce it; and now that the time has come to do so, we feel reluctant and find it very difficult. The enemy is bearing down upon us with his enormous war apparatus, and how dare we reduce ours? If we do, we shall feel that our forces are too few to cope with him. Such misgivings are precisely the result of being fettered by circumstance and habit. When the weather changes, it becomes necessary to change one's clothing. Each year as spring turns into summer, summer into autumn, autumn into winter and winter into spring we have to make this change. But owing to the force of habit people sometimes fail to make it at the proper turn and they fall ill. Present conditions in the base areas already require us to shed our winter garments and put on summer clothing so that we can move about nimbly to fight the enemy, but we are still heavily padded and weighed down, and quite unfit for combat. As for the question of how to deal with the enemy's enormous apparatus, we can learn from the example of how the Monkey King dealt with Princess Iron Fan. The Princess was a formidable demon, but by changing himself into a tiny insect the Monkey King made his way into her stomach and overpowered her.  Liu Tsung-yuan's description of "The Donkey in Kweichow"  also contains a valuable lesson. A huge donkey was brought to Kweichow and the sight of him rather frightened a small tiger. But in the end this huge donkey was devoured by the small tiger. Our Eighth Route and New Fourth Armies are the Monkey King or the small tiger, and they are fully capable of dealing with the Japanese demon or donkey. Now it is imperative for us to do a little changing and make ourselves smaller but sturdier, and then we shall be invincible.
1. The phrase "better troops and simpler administration" is now widely used and is no longer confined to military matters. It suggests readjustment in organizations and their staff membership, and simplification of the administration and the work procedure.
2. For the story of how Sun Wu-kung, the Monkey King, changed himself into a tiny insect and defeated Princess Iron Fan, see the Chinese novel, Hsi Yu Chi (Pilgrimage to the West), Chapter 59.
3. Liu Tsung-yuan (773-819), a great Chinese writer of the Tang Dynasty. His Three Parables includes "The Donkey in Kweichow", which tells how a tiger in Kweichow was scared when he saw a donkey for the first time. But discovering that all the donkey could do was to bray and kick, the tiger fell upon it and devoured it.
Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung