During Donald Trump’s presidency, media outlets in the United States have ramped up their fact-checking facilities to identify and disprove falsehoods peddled in his speeches and tweets. What is shocking is that the lies no longer shock us. Naturally, Trump’s hardcore supporters reject these repudiations as “fake news”. All governments lie for reasons of national interest, state security and so on, but the Trump administration’s brazen and crude deceits – and the unquestioning faith of the president’s base – are what you might expect from failed states and banana republics. No matter how many times Trump cries wolf, he can still count on the unwavering adoration and support of many Americans. A Chinese king 28 centuries ago was not as lucky. King You, the 12th and last king of the Western Zhou dynasty, who reigned from 781BC until his death in 771BC, was more interested in a life of leisure than the rigours of governing a state. In 779BC, legendary beauty Bao Si became his consort, and the king was immediately besotted. A political crisis unfurled when Bao gave birth to a son. King You demoted his principal wife, Queen Shen, and made Bao his queen and her son his heir apparent, replacing Shen’s son, who was exiled to the domain of his maternal grandfather, Marquess Shen. The move would have dire consequences for the king and his dynasty. Despite Bao’s beauty, she reportedly never laughed or even smiled. Instead of tending to his people, who were suffering the effects of a major earthquake, her doting husband tried to amuse her, but she would not crack a smile. Then one of the king’s sycophants came up with an idea of playing a trick on the feudal lords by lighting the beacons. At the time, flaming beacons signalled to the feudal lords that their king was in danger and they must come to his aid. On seeing the beacons ignited, one after the other, the lords of adjacent domains rushed to the capital with their troops – only to find King You and Bao drinking languidly above the city walls. The king dismissed them, telling them they had been tricked. On seeing the fluster, confusion and exasperation of the lords and their soldiers, Bao finally deigned to be amused and tittered. Elated, King Yourepeated the trick several times, each time sending away the increasingly resentful nobles. In 771BC, Marquess Shen, aggrieved by the king’s treatment of his daughter and grandson, allied with the Quanrong people to attack King You. When the joint armies arrived at the city walls, the king ordered the beacons lit. But this time, no lords came to his aid. The Quanrong breached the city walls, slayed the king and sacked the city, leaving it in ruins. Bao took her own life. When the marauders left, the remnants of the Zhou court moved east, ushering in the Eastern Zhou dynasty, whose kings would be so reduced in prestige and power that they became mere figureheads as nobles fought among themselves for supremacy. King You cried wolf too many times and lost his kingdom and his life. Trump’s litany of lies, on top of his incompetence and inaptitude, may cost him a second term as president. The world will watch the US election in November with bated breath.