shǎng xìn fá bì 赏信罚必
Confer Honors and Mete Out Punishment to Those Who Deserve Them
This term originally means awarding those who deserve it, and punishing those who must be punished. Later on it was used to mean that one must be strict, fair, and transparent in governance. Ancient Chinese believed that honors and punishments were important principles and methods in governing a state or an army. These measures can play an exemplary role. The purpose of giving award is to encourage people to do good things, and the purpose of meting out punishment is to bring wrongdoers to justice. Awards and punishments encourage people to follow the rules, and are used to distinguish merit from error and good from bad. When applied properly, awards and punishments avoid favoritism and partiality and urge people to better themselves.
King Wen of Zhou asked Jiang Taigong: “Rewards are used to encourage people to do good things, whereas punishments are used to warn people from doing bad things. I want to reward one person in order to encourage a hundred people, and punish one person to warn a large number of people from doing bad things. How should I do it?” Jiang replied: “It is important to give awards and mete out punishment. Acts of commendation and punishment can be heard and seen. And those who have not seen or heard of such acts will also be influenced in a subtle way.” (The Six Strategies)
It is a fundamental rule for a state to reward the benevolent and punish the wicked. (Discourses on Governance of the States)
It is an important means of governance of a state to encourage people to do good deeds and punish those who commit evil acts, and implement a strict and clear policy on commendation and punishment. (Wang Fu: Views of a Hermit)