When the going gets tough, how do leaders fire up their employees? In China, tech executives often turn to dramatic statements, laced with historical references.

Huawei CEO: “Never let anti-US sentiment guide our work”

Huawei has long tried to grow in the US smartphone market, repeatedly trying to partner with a local carrier without success. Despite the setbacks, the company’s founder and CEO told his staff not to develop any resentment towards the US.

The South China Morning Post reports that Ren Zhengfei issued a lengthy internal memo urging employees not to harbor nationalist sentiments.

Ren also invoked the story of the late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping, who was purged from the Communist Party three times during his nearly 50-year career, before he finally succeeded Mao Zedong.

“Company leaders who have been demoted … should take the opportunity to improve their abilities and achieve greater results in the future,” he wrote.

“As a great leader, Deng Xiaoping also went through three periods of success and three periods of setbacks,” Huawei CEO Ren Zhenghui wrote in a staff memo. (Picture: AFP)

The memo went out a few weeks after US President Donald Trump threatened billions of dollars of tariffs on Chinese imports -- but before Washington punished ZTE by banning it from buying from American companies for seven years.

ZTE chairman: Keep calm and carry on

That potentially crippling ban, which is reportedly being renegotiated, could deny ZTE access to crucial American hardware and software. The crisis prompted a desperate message from the company’s chairman Yin Yimin, asking his staff not to panic.

“I’d like to appeal all employees to maintain a state of calm, to man one’s post and do one’s job well,” read the memo, which evokes the Keep Calm and Carry On slogan created by the British government on the eve of World War II.

ZTE chairman Yin Yimin (on podium) said in a memo, “We need the combined strength of ZTE’s 80,000-strong staff in this tough time.” (Picture: CNS)

Ofo CEO: Fight till the end like Churchill

Wartime Britain was definitely on the mind of Dai Wei, CEO of bike-sharing startup Ofo, when he sought to rally his employees during a recent meeting.

Dai compared the status of his company to the difficult situation faced by Winston Churchill as portrayed in the 2017 war drama Darkest Hour. In the film, the British prime minister refused to surrender to Nazi Germany, determined to battle to the end.

The Ofo CEO told employees they could quit now if they didn’t want to fight on -- and said the company would remain independent. Sources told the South China Morning Post he turned down a potential acquisition offer from ride-hailing giant Didi Chuxing last month.

Ofo is China’s last remaining major independent bike-sharing startup. (Picture: South China Morning Post)

In another bizarre nod to Churchill, Dai named a new project “Victory” -- which will be declared a success when Ofo turns a profit of just 1 yuan (16 US cents).