The Fox Borrows the Tiger's Terror
In the Warring States period, the Chu State had a very capable minister called Zhao Xixu. He was well respected and held in awe by the people of other countries as well as his own. One day, the king asked his ministers "I hear every state in the north is afraid of our minister Zhao Xixu, is that so?" At the question, almost all the ministers kept silent except one called Jiangyi, who liked to curry the king's favor very much. He lost no time to seize the opportunity and said, "Your Majesty, you know, it's you who people awe and respect, not him! Have you ever heard the story The Fox Borrows the Tiger's Terror?" Well, here is the story.
One day a tiger was hunting around in a forest. An unlucky fox was met and caught by the tiger. For the fox, the inescapable fate was very clear -- death. Despite the danger, the fox thought hard to find a way out. Promptly, the fox declared to the tiger, "How dare you kill me!" On hearing the words the tiger was surprised and asked for the reason. The fox raised his voice a bit higher and declared arrogantly: "To tell you the truth, it's I who was accredited by God to the forest as the king of all the animals! If you kill me, that will be against the God's will, you know?" Seeing that the tiger became suspicions, the fox added: "Let's have a test. Let's go through the forest. Follow me and you will see HOW THE ANIMALS ARE FRIGHTENED OF ME." The tiger agreed. So the fox walked ahead of the tiger proudly through the forest. As you can imagine, the animals, seeing the tiger behind, were all terribly frightened and ran away. Then the fox said proudly: "There is no doubt that what I said is true, isn't it?" The tiger had nothing to say but to acknowledge the result. So the tiger nodded and said: "You are right. You are the king."
When Minister Jiangyi finished the story above, he added to the king: "It seems as if the northern neighbors were afraid of Minister Zhao xixu. In fact, they are afraid of Your Majesty just as the animals were afraid of the tiger not of the fox." The king was very pleased at Minister Jiangyi's words. And never doubted its truth.
The idiom is often used to analogize with those who take advantage of one's or somebody else's power to bully people.