What made Xiao He abandon his post? It was because he understood that whoever had Han Xin fight for him, gained control of China.
Han Xin was a genius, but at first was not well-known in the Han military camps. He once violated a military law and was to be executed along with 13 others. When it was Han Xin’s turn, he lifted his head and saw Minister Xia Hou Ying. Han Xin’s one sentence changed his fate: “Doesn’t the King of Han want to rule China? Why is he killing warriors?”
Seeing that Han Xin’s appearance and speech was out of the ordinary, Xia Hou Ying spared him and recommended him as a person of talent to Liu Bang (King of Han). Liu Bang did not take him seriously and assigned Han Xin to be responsible for army provisions.
Being responsible for army provisions allowed Han Xin to interact with prime minister Xiao He. Xiao He had many conversations with Han Xin and firmly believed that he was a man of talent. Xiao He recommended Han Xin to Liu Bang many times, but Han Xin was never placed in an important position.
Considering that it was not a place that respected his talent, Han Xin deserted the army and fled on horseback like many other generals. The moment Xiao He heard the news, he left the military camps to pursue Han Xin without reporting his own absence or intentions to Liu Bang.
Someone reported that the prime minister had deserted the camp. Liu Bang became furious as if he had lost his left and right hands. Luckily, after a day or two, Xiao He returned. Liu Bang was happy yet still angry. He yelled at Xiao He saying: “Why did you desert?” Xiao He replied: “I don’t dare to desert; I was pursuing a deserter.” Liu Bang said: “Liar! So many generals have deserted, yet you don’t pursue any one of them? Yet you pursue Han Xin?”
Xiao He replied: “Those with the talents of those generals are easily found, Han Xin is an outstanding figure, unparalleled in this world. If my lord only wants to be King of Han, then you don’t need Han Xin. If you want to rule China, then you must use Han Xin.”
Liu Bang said in response: “I do want to expand toward the east; how can I stay here forever?” Xiao He answered: “If my Lord is determined to expand toward the east and will use Han Xin, Han Xin will remain. If you won’t use Han Xin, then he will eventually leave.” Liu Bang replied: “Because of you, I’ll make him a general.” In response, Xiao He said: “Even if he becomes a general, Han Xin will not stay.” Liu Bang replied: “Then let him become a Great General.” Xiao He answered: “Fantastic, my Lord.”
Liu Bang was just about to summon Han Xin, but Xiao He told him to wait a moment. Xiao He said: “My Lord, you’ve always treated people without proper respect and do not have etiquette. You appoint a Great General like you’re calling a child. This is why Han Xin is leaving. If my Lord is to appoint him, you must select an auspicious day, you must fast, construct an altar, and follow the full etiquette.”
Liu Bang acted accordingly, appointing Han Xin as a Great General in accordance with Xiao He’s requests. Han Xin as foretold won every battle and helped Liu Bang conquer China. He was known as “A God of War.”