One day, King Hui of Liang met Mencius and said: "What a mess the political states of our neighbouring countries is in! When they govern their states, they never think of the people. But when there is a flood in Nenei, I move the victims of the calamity to Henei. I also allocate them food for calamity relief. I have really done my best to govern my country."
As Mencius heard this, he nodded in agreement.
King Hui of Liang went on to say: "Yet my population has not decreased and our neighbouring countries' population has not decreased. Tell me, what exactly is the reason?"
Mencius thought this over and replied: "Your Majesty likes wars. Please allow me to use war as an analogy4. On the battlefield, the sound of fighting shakes the heavens. The two armies are locked in a stalemate, but there is surely to be either victory or defeat. The defeated soldiers, throwing away their helmets and armour5, flee for their lives. Some of them flee 50 steps and then stop, while others flee 100 steps and stop. Then, those who flee 50 steps laugh at those who flee 100 steps for their cowardice6. Your Majesty, do you think it is right to laugh?"
Upon hearing this, King Hui struck the table and said: "Of course not. No matter whether they flee 50 steps or 100 steps, they are deserters just the same."