Naturally, this sparked a brawl involving the student, the child's mother and the restaurant staff. The mother later took to TV to slam the young woman's attack on her child.
But this kid-kicking girl has won praise online, with some saying that she did what they've wanted to do many times, reprimanding — albeit violently — a child who is misbehaving in the face of parental inaction.
A country of children haters
Yang Ming, the 30-year-old father of a newborn, said he watched the video and could not contain his rage.
"As a father, if you want me to apologize or control my child, that's all very reasonable, but if an adult attacks my child, then I'd attack right back, no matter the consequences," he said.
Yang calls the netizens that have expressed support for the student "mindless."
Lin Yun (pseudonym) said there are many reasons some people dislike children. She said that seeing children misbehave has made her vow to never have kids of her own.
Once, she saw a bunch of kids putting firecrackers into cowpats. When the fireworks exploded, they spread manure over the whole field.
"The effect of that incident has lingered till this day," she said. "Whenever I recall it, I can smell that stench."
Discussions of how to deal with annoying young relatives have long been common on Chinese forums, especially during Spring Festival when one is socially obliged to spend days on end with one's family regardless of whether or not you actually enjoy spending time with them.
Typical stories mention naughty children ruining treasured books, stealing childhood toys or breaking netizen's possessions.
People usually offer these suffering netizens all sorts of "tips" about how to handle annoying kids, even going so far as suggesting revenge methods. Some say that parents should send their kids to extra-curricular classes so they aren't around to bother adults, others say that any destruction should be repaid in kind, preferably on the offending child's toys.
There are whole communities on Chinese forums such as douban.com that are devoted to those who have chosen to remain "childfree" or just hate children. They are named things like "anti-procreation," "I swear I will not have children" or simply "hating children." Most of these groups have thousands of members.
"Because my parents have always made me feel I'm a burden to them, I feel children would be a burden to me as well … I don't think I can be responsible for another life," one comment reads.
"I will not allow myself to raise a child in the terrible way I've seen almost all parents around me raise their children. It's already difficult enough for me to fix and find myself, let alone completing a more complicated and demanding task," another reads.
Who is to blame?
In an article recently published by online news platform Huxiu, the author, Botongli, said that "kidphobia" is the result of defective parenting methods and family planning policies.
"Thirty-five years of the family planning policy has robbed at least two to three generations of Chinese people of the chance to be in close contact with babies," Botongli wrote. "If you have browsed childcare forums or online communities, then you know how much knowledge Chinese people lack about children and babies." Botongli argues that besides this lack of knowledge, many of China's young people did not have a peaceful relationship with their parents. They were beaten when they misbehaved and forced to control their childish impulse to play, so many think it's bizarre when children act like children and they therefore see normal childlike behaviors as the actions of "mischievous devils."
Only child Sun Ting, 27, said she has never spent time caring for babies, but this isn't the reason she dislikes being around small children.
"We aren't anti-kids, but anti-idiots," she said.
"Parents should be role models. But very often I seem them set such a bad example for their children to follow. The thing that angers me the most is when their children are disturbing others, they just tell others that they should forgive children because of their young age," she said.
Sun's take on this phenomenon is that many people do not distinguish between public and private spaces, acting as if train cars and restaurants are their own living rooms.
Two decades ago, when social mobility was even more limited than today, people would rarely leave where they grew up and they would generally only interact with people they already knew. In such close-knit communities, people did not feel the need to stick to the social rules that make public spaces in the city bearable, Sun said.
To illustrate this point, author Yan Mu compared Chinese and Japanese children in an article published on Weibo public account Baobao Bashi, saying that Chinese youngsters are much worse behaved than their Japanese counterparts.
According to the author's observation, Japanese people view any inappropriate behavior in public as "shameful" and they would be embarrassed to see their children misbehave.
The author claims that it is rare to hear someone, young or old, shouting in a public place in Japan because people are taught from a young age not to disturb others. "But in China, many parents demand their kids abide by the rules, but ignore the rules themselves," said the article. "Chinese people like lively environments but this isn't a reason for us to indulge ourselves in public."
But some have defended the mother in the viral video, saying that people need to be tolerant of children. Popular blogger "paingod" who has over 3 million Sina Weibo followers commented that "Raising a child needs sacrifice and devotion … The scope of devotion and sacrifice aren't limited to families, but should be expanded to society."
A childfree dilemma
Sun said that after seeing so many naughty children, she never wants children of her own.
In her mother's time, there were lots of free nurseries provided by employers. "But now these nurseries are gone, bringing us more burdens in taking care of children," she said.
"But the problem is that in our society, it is still expected that women should love kids and if you say you don't like kids, people will look at you like you are a cold-hearted monster. In our traditional culture, giving birth to a baby to continue the family line is associated with filial piety. Even if I don't want to have a child, I will be pressed to do it, eventually," said Sun.
She has communicated with her parents the possibility of being a DINK (double income with no kids) but encountered a strong backlash.
"Many of my friends have expressed that they don't love kids but under societal pressure, we will have our babies. And some are already considering a second child," she said.
This article, written by Zhang Yiqian and Xie Wenting, was originally published in the Global Times.