RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. — As Lenovo announced another 450 layoffs on Tuesday, some intriguing insight emerged from China Daily about the infighting that triggered the recent bloodletting in the corporate management suites.

"This is the most critical and difficult time in the company’s history. There is something wrong with our corporate culture and our staff morale is at a low point. It’s time to rekindle our staff’s passion."

So said Lenovo co-founder Liu Chuanzhi at a "tea party" in early January in Beijing, according to Ding Qingfen who wrote the inside story about the Wall Street-moves-to-the-Forbidden-City intrigue.

A month later, Chief Executive Officer William Amelio left when his contract wasn’t renewed. Other executives have also left. Lenovo, which operates headquarters in Beijing and Morrisville, is in the processing of cutting more than 11 percent of its employees, and Liu is back as chairman. Yang Yuanqing is running daily ops as CEO after giving up the chairman role.

While Liu did not mention Amelio by name, Ding said Lenovo insiders knew to whom the chairman was referring.

"The root of the computer-maker’s problems … was the bitter infighting between the foreign executives, headed by the then-chief executive officer William J. Amelio and the domestic management staff, said a senior executive who did not want to be named," Ding wrote. "Subsequently, many senior local executives quit the company to join competitors, the source said. Staff morale was further depressed after a retrenchment notice was posted in early January."

Stories about the clash of cultures within Lenovo are not new, but Chinese media has made following Lenovo a passion. After all, since acquiring IBM’s PC division four years ago, Lenovo has been the face of China’s global free-enterprise efforts. And even in China, where freedom of the press is far different than in the West, business coverage is big because the country is so reliant on trade to fuel its surging economy. And Chinese media speculated about a management shakeup in December, including reports that Yang might quit.

Interestingly, Amelio himself offered clues that his reign was in trouble. On Jan. 25, at a Middle East trade show, Amelio told Reuters, "We don’t plan further layoffs."

Two days later, he revised his remarks: "We are confident that the actions we have taken to date represent a significant and strong step in the right direction for Lenovo, its employees and its shareholders.

"But driving cost from our business and building operational efficiency is an ongoing process. We will continue to explore actions that can reduce costs and help strengthen our business."

Nine days after that revision, Lenovo announced his departure.

Liu made his "passion" comment at Lenovo’s Beijing headquarters, where the tea party took place to close the year of the Rat, according to the Chinese calendar. A sense of "foreboding" enveloped the gathering, according to Ding.

If someone is to rekindle the Lenovo "passion," as Liu said, it’s apparently him, wrote Ding: "He didn’t name the person who was going to do that. But many of those present were secretly anticipating Liu to take the helm again."

When Amelio’s exit was announced, Ding quoted a Lenovo exec as saying the changes were "so inspiring."

"Lenovo staffers said in private that ‘Liu brings hope to Lenovo,’" Ding said he was told.

The management changes, coming after a year in which Lenovo sought to expand aggressively overseas yet lost market share, had been rumored for some time, Ding added.

"Indeed, Legend’s (Lenovo’s parent) board of directors had been toying with the idea of reinstating Liu to the top slot for quite some time," he said. "In August 2008, Liu was heard mentioning that Lenovo was his destiny and it was his ‘duty’ to rejoin Lenovo’s management team to help the company regain its competitive edge, the source said."

Well, Liu has done his "duty." It will be quite interesting to see if he is successful in restoring Lenovo’s passion. The layoff announcement Tuesday can’t help morale amongst its China staff. And Lenovo is rumored to be making a $1 billion-plus bid for Brazilian PC-manufacturer Positivo. Many more changes could be on the horizon.

Lenovo’s staff is going to need more than passion. It needs results.