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Background: "baozi" is any of several varieties of big, soft steamed buns filled with meat, veg, and seasonings: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baozi

There's a phrase in Mandarin which translates to "hitting a dog with baozi," which is a phrase used to describe someone approaching a problem in the wrong way, so much so that what they're doing is actually detrimental.

If you throw soft, tasty food at a dog because it did something wrong, you're likely to make the problem worse. And you've also deprived yourself of the food.

In English, the only thing I can think of that's sort of close would be "invading Russia in the winter," but I don't think it's quite the same, as it doesn't carry the same "making things worse" connotation.

  • 2
    Pouring gasoline on a flame – Jim Jan 29 '16 at 21:53
  • "out of the frying pan into the fire"? – Mitch Jan 29 '16 at 21:56
  • put lipstick on a pig – Lambie Jan 29 '16 at 22:29
  • Seems to be how the US Government punishes bank executives who break the law or cause global economic catastrophe... – Tim Ward Jan 30 '16 at 1:38
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In very similar vein to some other suggestions, but I think with the connotation that you desire:

Using kerosene to put out a fire is clearly applying a "solution" that will make your situation worse.

  • nice! It's very close to "adding fuel to fire" but it doesn't mean the same. – BiscuitBoy Jan 30 '16 at 4:36
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Do more harm than good:

  • to make a situation worse instead of better

Add fuel to the fire/flames:

  • to make a bad situation even worse by saying or doing something that makes someone angry

or:

Make matters/things worse:

  • used for talking about something that makes a bad situation worse.

(macmillandictionary)

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    "Do more harm than good" is what I'm looking for. Deep down, I was hoping for something a little cuter. I think "adding fuel to the fire," etc. is a little different from what I was looking for. If I say "stop adding fuel to the fire," to someone, then they know exactly what they're doing, but if I say "stop hitting the dog with baozi," it's meant to point out to them that what they're doing is wrong. – Myron Jan 29 '16 at 22:05
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Go from bad to worse - to progress from a bad situation to one that is worse (http://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/go+from+bad+to+worse)

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The extreme form of this behavior can be described as snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

  • Doesn't this mean losing a game from a strong winning position? How is it related to making something worse by adopting the wrong approach? – BiscuitBoy Jan 30 '16 at 4:39
  • @BiscuitBoy - Exactly. You've got the game won, and then you do something stupid and blow it. Like I said, it's the extreme version. – WhatRoughBeast Jan 30 '16 at 5:36

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