Maybe You Shouldn't Be Laughing at the Viral Video of a Chinese Toddler Defending His Grandma

Screen capture from the viral video.

Screen capture from the viral video.

A video showing a toddler picking up a steel pipe to defend his grandma from a group of Chengguan, or Chinese urban management officers, went viral last week.

In the video, the toddler yells “Don't touch my grandma” and waves the pipe threateningly at a group of Chengguans who are laughing and videotaping the toddler. Onlookers also laugh at the scene.

Chengguan, who are responsible for maintaining public order by clamping down on illegal street vendors and enforcing rules on city sanitation, have been a target of public scorn due to their thug-like behavior. A few years back, videos showing instances of violent behavior by Chengguan often went viral online and attracted a huge amount of criticism. However, due to the increase of social media censorship in China, similar citizen witness accounts are now less visible. Instead, party affiliated media outlets have started picking up news about street vendors attacking Chengguans.

This time, the video also passed the ideological review as it shows a toddler's “violence” towards Chengguan. The video clip went viral on various Chinese social media platforms on April 14 and was quickly picked up by the English-language side of People's Daily, which shared the news report on Twitter.

On Weibo, China's most popular social media platform, the majority of the people, like the onlookers, found the scene funny. But some felt sad for the toddler:


I really like this kid. But my heart is aching. His thinking and world is simple.


Is this funny? The toddler's anger comes from his will to protect his grandma from bullying. Is this funny? If your family is humiliated and bullied, wouldn't you stand up to help them? I don't understanding what you are laughing at.


The toddler should enjoy sunshine like all other kids. Instead he learned how to use violence in resistance to the Chengguan. His action reflects the environment he grew up. His heart was covered with a shadow. It is not just a family tragedy but also a social tragedy.

As the online discussions started to turn critical towards Chengguan, the propaganda authorities issued instructions demanding the video, pictures, and news reports be removed from the main news section of major news outlets on April 15 because they “unfavorably portray the law enforcement community”. More balanced, pro-law enforcement views are now dominating social media:

应该给小孩正确的引导吧 这些城管又没有暴力执法 她奶奶占了人行道 当然得管啦!

Should educate the kid. The Chengguan [in the video] did not use any violence. His grandma has occupied the pavement, of course the law has to be enforced.


The family education of this kid must be problematic. First of all, his grandma has occupied public space. This is bad behavior. Secondly, how can the parents allow the kid to pick up such big weapon. Isn't that dangerous? The video did not show Chengguan use violence and we should not comment too much on it. However, there are so many keyboard warriors who assume Chengguan as the bad guy.

There's an argument to be made that the video does in fact show the Chengguan's violence towards the toddler — it's just not physical, it's psychological. The mobile phones, the cameras and the laughter can embarrass and demean him.

Whether they agree that it's violence or not, many netizens nevertheless didn't see the video as amusing.


  • […] This article by Oiwan Lam originally appeared on Global Voices. […]

  • babe471119

    Who says we’re laughing?

  • nodomino

    If the scenario explained to us was anywhere near accurate, the little boy was the only rational person there. Never Let Go.

  • Mohamed

    A child defends his grandmother’s right to life and livelihood against people’s rights to walk the pavements. In a way, she was there first. The people’s family lives and right to hearth, home and heritage may have been stolen from them. That is what it looks like to me.

  • rwscid

    Why does the government own the sidewalks? Why aren’t they owned by private parties, like the sidewalks in Disneyland? Then private parties can make the rules that best suit their needs, and the needs of their customers. In Disneyland there is no group of rogue Chengguan, or well behaved Chengguan, roaming around causing/stopping trouble. There is a well managed core of employees whose job it is to make the guest experience the best it can be. And, because that guest experience is so good, people willingly pay astoundingly large amounts of money for the privilege of walking on those private sidewalks.

    As for me, I do not enjoy Disneyland very much. Even when I am there with my children and/or grandchildren it is simply not my cup of tea. Thankfully, participation at Disneyland is entirely voluntary on my part. I am never forced to go there, for lack of more pleasing alternatives, or because Disneyland managers have not hit their guest quota for the month.

    The idea of ‘public’ property, i.e., sidewalks and streets owned by the government, is simply outdated. The government doesn’t do a good job of meeting people’s needs, nor of charging them for the costs of doing so. Consequently, in a country such as China they hire ill-behaved Chengguan, to deal with ill behaved citizens who attempt to use ‘public’ property for their private benefit (vending, for instance), and in the United States we hire ill-behaved Law Enforcement officers to deal with ill behaved citizens who attempt to use ‘public’ property for their private benefit (prostitution, for instance).

    When analyzed with clarity, ‘public’ property serves people poorly in both China and the United States, and for the same reasons.

    Hopefully this toddler’s actions will inspire everyone to think rationally about the benefits of private ownership of property, and the detriments of public ownership.

    • Markangelo

      Sure if you like that kind of fascist fantasy security.
      There is extreme control and surveillance
      at the mouse house from subliminal to real physical restraint.
      Dont Fool Yourself !!!

      • rwscid

        The article clearly states it was Anaheim’s police force (in other words, a government agency) running the surveillance equipment, not Disneyland.

        And, repeating myself, the wonderful thing about Disneyland is that no one can force me to go there.

        Unlike public sidewalks, which have a monopoly because they destroy the incentives for private sidewalks.

        • Markangelo

          You obviously do not have a young peer pressured daughter
          who wants to be a princess(sic)
          And why is a Public Funded Police force
          working for Disney in the first place ?

          • rwscid

            The Anaheim police force is not working ‘for’ Disney any more than they are working ‘for’ every citizen of Anaheim. Every property tax payer of Anaheim is entitled to the protection of the Anaheim police force and I am certain Disney is one of those taxpayers.

            If there are Anaheim police force drones flying over Disney property it is either because they have the legal right to do so, which is probable (many airplanes and helicopters have the legal right to fly over my house in Iowa), or because Disney has invited them to do so.

            I am generally unsympathetic toward parents who succumb to peer pressured daughter’s requests, but I certainly understand them. My own grown children have fully succumbed to my granddaughters’ princess fantasies. My best defenses were 1) I never allowing a TV in the house, and 2) I gave my children allowances and required them to buy all their peer pressured items with their own money.

          • Markangelo

            Kudos to your parenting skills.
            However I do not agree with your
            private property restrictions on
            the public commons.
            The POLICE are there to protect Private Property Rights
            not anyones public rights;
            the common law of freedom of hygiene
            (no where else to go …let them piss in the street
            then arrest them?)
            The Anaheim City is obviously
            in the back pocket of Disney;
            read any disgusting minority treatment
            report on that city.
            Also Thomas Paine’s “Agrarian Justice”
            and Henry George’s “Progress and Poverty”
            Rentier income is not productive.

          • rwscid

            In theory the police are here to protect many rights, including those we have in public places (freedom of speech, assembly, bear arms, etc.). I cannot comment on the efficacy of the Anaheim police.

            As for pissing in public, getting arrested and finding yourself on the sex offender registry for life, I will argue against this on moral grounds (cruel and unusual punishment, certainly), but I will also suggest it supports my disapproval of public space. Were such an event to happen on private property, the property owner would only have the right to remove you from the property and prohibit your return.

          • Markangelo

            In your theoretical paradise
            how many citizens
            or were born with,
            this parenthetical pot to pissin ???????

            Even children know the difference
            between Manikan Piss
            and your implication of evil.
            Honi soit qui mal y pense !

          • rwscid

            Ownership is unnecessary. One can be very rich, and own very little (rent your lodging, your transportation, your kitchen, your tuxedo, etc.), or be very poor, but own quite a bit (your run down lodging, your non-functioning car, your rat infested kitchen, your dumpster clothes, etc.)..

            In my ideal world, where people enjoy freedom from both governments and individuals who would take away their lives and their property, everyone would have a place to urinate without being arrested, incarcerated, and placed on a sex offender registry. This world existed only a few decades ago, in fact, and still does in almost every country of the world except the US.

            I’m sure many LE in the United States, as well as many censorious politicians, would be happy to ban Manaken Pis from public places, and possibly arrest and convict Hiëronymus Duquesnoy the Elder in absentia.

          • Markangelo

            Before, when everything was public property;
            not the King’s land ?
            It is amazing that we are not charged
            for speaking the British tongue .

            Why was Natty Bummpo arrested for poaching a deer ?

          • D.r. Supe

            the Orange County and Anaheim Police forces have been known as thugs for decades, and Disneyland keeps a strict watch in their space… heaven forbid a tourist have her sandal strap break, they’ll harass her before she can make it out of the park to go get change of shoes. ( I know, that happened to my sister)

  • […] This article by Oiwan Lam originally appeared on Global Voices. […]

  • […] This article by Oiwan Lam originally appeared on Global Voices. […]

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