The expression is a strange one to Anglo ears: Kill the Chicken to Scare the Monkey. To get an understanding of this proverb, you have to to back to a different time in Chinese history; back to the Zhou Dynasty. According to an old folktake, when busking in the streets first started, popular entertainment came from street vendors who earned money with their dancing monkey’s. They would play music and the monkey would perform to the delight of the crowds.

One day, when the monkey of this particular vendor refused to dance, the entertainer slaughtered a live chicken in front of the monkey to shame it for refusing to dance.

Monkey attacking a chicken

In another version of the folktale, also from the Zhou Dynasty, a man by the name of Jiāng Zǐyá was asked by his king to find him an adviser. Jiāng Zǐyá traveled far and wide, finally asking a noted scholar, who lived high up on a mountaintop. Jiāng Zǐyá made many visits to the hut of scholar who consistently refused to give Jiāng Zǐyá the name of a worthy advisor. Finally, out of frustration and anger, Jiāng Zǐyá killed the scholar.

In December, 2020, there was a clash brewing between two significant Presidents in China: Jack Ma, of Alibaba, and Xi Jinping, of the People’s Republic of China.

Jack Ma and his state of conscience

According to the Chinese version of the conversation between Jack Ma and President Xi Jinping, the Chinese leader threatened Mr. Ma with a scare tactic bringing to life the folktale in 2020. Writers reported that the tactics used to reprimand Ma reminded them of the Chinese Proverb: Kill the Chicken to Scare the Monkey. Initial reactions sound like the reprimand hit the mark! We shall see how it all works out.