Artist Ai Weiwei captures footage of protesters attacking US ambassador's car in Beijing

Robert Mackey at the NYT reports that Chinese art-provocateur Ai Weiwei was in the right place, at the right time, and captured video of "a small group of protesters [who] briefly surrounded the American ambassador’s car" outside the US Embassy in Beijing, pelting it with objects." Ai Weiwei uploaded the footage to YouTube, showing "that the protesters arrived at the embassy’s gate, with remarkable timing, at precisely the same moment as the ambassador’s car. A line of police officers appeared, running in formation, seconds before the protesters blocked the car." The incident took place amid widespread protests and acts of violence in China over the status of disputed islands also claimed by Japan.


  1. Clearly the artist manufactured this footage in an attempt to discredit the Communist Party, for China is a tranquil land of harmony where the workers do not demonstrate.

    Oh, they were demonstrating against Japan’s claim to their own freking back yard?  That’s different.

    1. It could have been about something other than the Japan/tiny rocks issue(though I certainly would’nt be surprised to hear that somebody thinks that we are Japan’s sinister puppetmaster). We always have some sort of trade tariff thing going on, or a spirited exchange of views concerning the status of Taiwan…

    1. Supposedly, it’s over these crappy uninhabitable islands that are probably part of the same volcanic chain that Okinawa is part of. They’re angry (theoretically) at the US because we turned the islands over to Japan in the 70s after our post-WWII occupation forces finally left the area.

      1. Have they given any consideration to mobbing the US embassador’s car and giving him a big hug, since we also sort of nuked and firebombed our way through a fair few Japanese urban centers during that period?

        I just can’t fathom the lack of historical perspective required to adopt a “WWII: How the US coddled Japan” position…

        1.  right, do you think there is a lot of pro american material in the chinese school program?

          this is not a joke, i have quite a few chinese friends and none of them love the usa for any political reasons. then again who does.

          1. Indeed. China has for years denied that the US had any invovlement in the Flying Tigers squadron that they led with Chinese pilots before the US entered WWII.

            China likes to conveniently forget stuff.

          2.  I don’t think the Flying Tigers had Chinese pilots. 
            They were mercenaries and their unit’s name was the “1st American Volunteer Group”.
            The embassy of the U.S. in Beijing had the following to say about that:  There were no Chinese members of the AVG.

            China calls all pilots fighting the Japanese in China during WWII, even including the Doolittle Raiders, “Flying Tigers”. 

          3. I wouldn’t really think of a description of our WWII aerial doctrines as ‘pro american material’, honestly. Even among True Blue Americans the response is usually something in the vein of ‘Yeah, but the alternative was a ground invasion which would have really sucked for everybody even more.’

            The chinese protesters are certainly correct in the sense that the US is rather warmer with Japan now, and quite likely happier with Japan than with China; but the idea of almost any part of our WWII era Japan policy being pro-Japanese enough to protest against is just slightly mind boggling.(Both in the ‘by the numbers, this is how much stuff we set on fire’ and in the ‘among the wartime clips on, damn are the anti-Japanese ones crazy racist in a way that the European Axis powers just don’t receive’ sense).

  2. So what does Japan’s claim on some uninhabited islands have to do with the USA? Is the USA somehow backing the Japanese claim? Is this just a case of “how to get in the media about your cause”?

      1. And we technically turned the islands over to the Japanese government after our occupation forces left. Neither government asserted a very strong claim over the islands back when we finally left that area, but they seem to be a part of the same chain of islands that Okinawa is part of. So they ended up under Japanese control, even though the Chinese disputed the claim. They didn’t dispute very strongly though and most people completely forgot about them until recently, when the resources underneath them suddenly became valuable enough to start drilling for.

        1. Until 1970, the Peoples’ Republic of China actually stated in newspapers and maps that the islands were Japanese. The Taiwanese government has previously said the same.

          However this goes, you can imagine the Philippines and Vietnam which also have territorial disputes with China will be looking on nervously.

          1.  Actually, Taiwan also claims the islands. Of the three, Taiwan is geographically closest to them. Long, long history here, and evidence and rigid positions on all sides.

  3. I can’t help but feel the Chinese government is manufacturing the public outcry over these islands. It’s been forty years since this “debate” over ownership started and now all of a sudden we have massive public protests which are reported on by the Chinese news agencies (who normally sweep all public protests under the rug) and there hasn’t been a government crack down. That line of cops running out to meet the crowd (coming from the same direction as the crowd) and not really doing much to move the crowd until after they’ve had a chance to surround the car just feels so… fake.

    It all just feels so coordinated. Like the authorities are in on the whole thing.

    And am I the only one who thinks “It was ours a hundred years ago” is a pretty lame reason to think you should take a chunk of land today? That’s like creating Israel out of Palestine because the Hebrews took it by force a couple millennia ago from the previous residents and now they want it back again. If the Chinese wanted these islands so badly, they should have asserted a claim sooner. But no, the oil underneath them wasn’t worth drilling for in the 70s. Now that it is, suddenly it’s a matter of great national importance that they get these uninhabitable islands back.

    Or has something else happened recently to sour Chinese/Japanese relations that I’m missing? Is it just these stupid islands?

    1. ‘Or has something else happened recently to sour Chinese/Japanese relations that I’m missing? Is it just these stupid islands?’

      More likely this is internal Chinese politics at work. Manufacturing an external crisis is pretty much de rigeur when totalitarian governments face internal issues. The economy is slowing, there are persistant warnings of a hard landing when their internal debts come home to roost and the Communist Party is approaching a key handover of responsibilities at a time when there has been widespread reporting inside and outside China of abuses of position and widespread corruption by leading figures. 

      What better than to whip up a bit of hysteria with the oldest enemy of all?

      The only problem they might have is what happens if the Chinese people find they kind of like protesting and choose to demonstrate about other issues closer to home than a few rocks?

      1. They already are; there’s plenty of coverage in The Japan Times of Anti-Japan protests turning into Anti-State protests, speculation on the demos being state-agitated and so on.  

        Check: for a variety of social media stuff on this.  Not quite unbiased reporting, but still, I’m more inclined to believe the JT than anything that comes out of any Chinese news organ.

        Bear in mind that South Korea’s own tiny rocks squabble with the Japanese, which so far as I can see is happening for much the same reasons (President Lee is approaching the end of his term and wants to leave a political legacy; why not dust off the ‘Dokdo is our land’ banners?) and possibly the Chinese decided to join in in their own way and seize the day.

        Oh and didn’t Leon Panetta stick his oar in about this on Tuesday?  Plus, there was an agreement to install a second anti-missile radar station in Japan made on Monday.  See: 

  4. That was remarkable restraint on the part of the police.  If this protest took place in Oakland, CA, USA, there would be heads rolling and protestor blood all around as the police cracked skulls.  The USA has to get over our addiction to incarceration.

    1. Not sure admirable is the word when the government is encouraging the protest. The police presence is strictly for show. China has prisons and ‘reform through labor’ torture camps stuffed with political prisoners. Ask Ai Wei Wei how cool the cops there are.

  5. I love how set-up this is.  The protesters magically appear with chinese flags in a mob, at the exact same time as the ambassador’s car was driving down that particular street.  Then, almost instantaneously, a line of 40 police officiers arrives on the scene, and escorts the car out.

    Duh.  Staged.  Probably by the government.

    1. Hillary should tell the embassy to just start randomly driving around town with a blow-up doll in the back of the car.

    2. There are always squads of ‘guards’ patrolling the embassy areas, its normal practice. Their not even police, just special embassy guards, closer to military police without guns. 
      This was not staged, sorry bud. 

      1. I am inclined to agree having lived close to the Embassy area in Beijing for a few years. The security forces are everywhere, all the time. I always felt for the poor guys who had to stand outside an embassy gate and had to look left then front then right for hours. Like robots.

  6. Nice choreography. 
    Watch it twice, it becomes even more blatant. 
    This was a very lightly veiled threat by the emperors of China.  

      1.  I had no idea what you meant by that. 
        Then I found this. 
        Fun!  I’ll have to watch that sometime despite despising Madonna since the mid-eighties. 

        1.  I was thinking of the stage version.  There’s a square of military officers and a square of society toffs and they move around each other in formation as they sing the song.

  7. I have experienced it here in Chengdu.
    The protests are of course tolerated and in parts orhcestrated by the central government otherwise there would be no protest. There is a power transition taking place which is so complex and obscure that there is no doubt these distractions have one purpose only which is to make the transition work smoothly.

    The sad thing about this nationalist scum on the streets is that they mainly destroyed property of their fellow countrywomen and men. Be it Chinese owners of Japanese restaurants or cars etc. Not to justify attacks on Japanese citizens at all.

    A classic example how pathetic and dumb nationalism is no matter where it occurs.

    There were some banners raised during the protests which got people into jail e.g. one banner read:
    “Send 3000 paratroopers to Diayou Islands and the islands will belong to us. Send 500 corrupt officials to Japan and Japan will drown from their obesity”

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