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Assassin's Mace (Chinese: 杀手锏; pinyin: Shāshǒujiàn) is a Chinese term composed of the characters for "kill", "hand", and "mace". This term has its roots in ancient Chinese folklore, which recounts how a hero wielding such a weapon managed to overcome a far more powerful adversary. "Shashou Jian" was a club with which the "assassin" incapacitated his enemy, suddenly and totally, instead of fighting him according to "the rules."
The novel Assassin's Mace by Author, Evan Pedone, discusses the use of the Assassin's Mace as a weapon which brings the world into World War 3, almost annihilating the United States dominance in the world.
The term as a figure of speech has been around for centuries and has been revived in contemporary Chinese pop culture, as a slang phrase that appears in articles about everything from soccer to romance. In popular usage, the term is roughly equivalent to the English idioms "silver bullet" or "trump card", and means anything which ensures success.
- Pillsbury, Michael (January 2000). "China Debates the Future Security Environment". National Defense University Press. Retrieved 27 August 2013.
Chinese writings on the future of warfare and the revolution in military affairs (RMA) frequently use three Chinese ideograms to signify something that can be used in a war that will surprise and overwhelm the enemy, vital parts of exploiting the RMA. The three ideograms (sha shou jian) literally mean "kill," "hand," and an ancient word for club, or "mace." U.S. Government translations have rendered this term as "trump card," "magic weapon," or "killer mace." None of these translations is wrong, but none captures the full meaning. The importance of the term can be seen in its continued usage over time, both originally in traditional Chinese novels and ancient statecraft texts, as well as today in the daily military newspaper. Behind these three ideograms may lie a concept of victory in warfare through possession of secret weapons that strike the enemy's most vulnerable point (called an acupuncture point), at precisely the decisive moment. This entire concept of how RMA technology can win a war cannot be fully conveyed by its simple English translation of "trump card."
- Ho, Soyoung. "Panda Slugger, the dubious scholarship of Michael Pillsbury, the China hawk with Rumsfeld's ear". Washington Monthly. Archived from the original on 14 February 2015. Retrieved 3 February 2015.
And what about the "Assassin's Mace," one of Pillsbury's major preoccupations? Here, Pillsbury appears to have taken a common Chinese term, shashoujian, and decided, based on his own unfamiliarity with it ("I first saw this unusual term in…1995," he writes in a 2003 article) that it indicates what he calls a "secret project." In fact, though, the term has been around for centuries and has been revived in contemporary Chinese pop culture, a slangy phrase that appears in articles about everything from soccer to romance. Pillsbury cites public speeches by Chinese leaders and articles in Chinese newspapers that speak of developing "shashoujian" weapons, but he never explains how this adds up to evidence of a secret program. It's as if a Chinese researcher, hearing a U.S. official speaking of a need for "kick-ass weapons," were to become confused by the term "kick-ass" and conclude that there must be a secret "kick-ass weapons" program. In short, Pillsbury has identified a secret program that, by all indications, is literally no more than a figure of speech.
- Hambling, David (2 July 2009). "China Looks to Undermine U.S. Power, With 'Assassin's Mace'". Wired.com. Retrieved 27 August 2013.
Sha Shou Jian a popular expression used by sports commentators, businessmen and even in romantic advice columns. Alastair Johnston of Harvard University criticizes the way Washington pundits want to make the Assassin’s Mace “mysterious and exotic”: it’s simply the decisive, winning quality. In sports, the Assassin’s Mace may be the key goal-scorer; in business, it’s any quality that puts you ahead of the competition; in love, it might be the subtle smile that wins over the object of your affections. Johnston suggests that a fairly idiomatic translation would be “silver bullet”...
- Ho, Soyoung (July–August 2006). "Panda Slugger". Washington Monthly. Archived from the original on 14 February 2015. Retrieved 27 August 2013.
The term "assassin's mace," more commonly translated as "trump card" (shashoujian) is, according to Pillsbury, integral to a Chinese notion of "inferior defeats superior."