The Spirit of China, in Pint-Sized Form

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

I'm not sure exactly how old the toddler in this wildly popular new video is. Maybe three? Maybe four? What I know is that this illustrates a side of Chinese life familiar to anyone who has lived there but often left out of foreign imagery. Namely: the fierce individualism of a lot of Chinese people, who don’t like to be pushed around.

China Digital Times has a (typically) great explanation of the video itself, the immediate reaction it got from the Chinese public, and the subsequent instinctively fearful clampdown by the Chinese government. It also explains who the bad guys are in the video: not normal police but the chengguan, whom you see in police-looking light-blue-shirt uniforms. They’re a kind of local business-enforcement force whose members are typically more heavy-handed in pushing citizens around than the real police are.

CDT makes the larger points; I’m just offering this as an interesting slice of Chinese life.

Update A longer video, with more context for the child’s independent stand, is here: