From today's NYT, after a Chinese fishing boat rammed and sank a Vietnamese trawler:
The phrase neatly turns around a Chinese saying that one should “kill the chicken to scare the monkey” — that is, frighten one’s real enemy by attacking a lesser one. The reversal both threatens and humiliates Vietnam, by suggesting it is a lesser nation.
The central notion of a master-servant relationship between China and Vietnam also featured elsewhere: “Originally Vietnam was a prefecture of China, today you are independent. Take good care of yourself and that’s enough, how dare you act rashly!”
Nothing much changes: From Nick Turse's Kill Anything That Moves.
To President Johnson, Vietnam was a 'piddling, piss-ant little country'. To McNamara, it was a 'backward nation'. Henry Kissinger called North Vietnam 'a little, fourth rate power' later downgrading it to 'fifth-rate' status. Such feelings permeated the chain of command and foiund even more colourful voice among those in the field, who regarded Vietnam as 'the outhouse of Asia', 'the garbage dump of civilisation', 'the asshole of the world.'