Hundreds of ordinary Chinese people were venting their rage at the bombing of their embassy in Belgrade. "Down with American imperialism," they shouted. Westerners found close to the compound were asked menacingly: "Are you American?"
This unscripted violence followed an extraordinary, highly orchestrated afternoon when 4,000 students from a dozen Peking universities were bused in for two hours to march past the embassy, shouting anti-American slogans.
Paramilitary police guards did not stop students throwing bottles, eggs and broken paving stones over the main gate. Large numbers of plainclothes state security officials stood by as the bombardment continued.
"Accept your guilt," chanted several hundred students from Qinghua University as they took their turn in front, waving banners reading "Topple imperialists" and "A blood debt must be paid in blood". A huge cheer went up as a rock flew through the air and smashed an embassy entrance light.
With just four weeks to go before the extremely sensitive 10th anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, the organisation of a huge student street demonstration illustrated the depth of official Chinese anger.
The country has vigorously opposed Nato's attacks. China's state- run media has focused almost entirely on the Yugoslav side, omitting mention of "ethnic cleansing" and atrocities by Serbs in Kosovo. Anti- American feeling was already high as a result of allegations in the US of nuclear espionage by China.
But Chinese nationalism is unpredictable and powerful. Government encouragement of student protest may yet unleash forces China will find hard to control.Reuse content