A man buys a knife in a Beijing supermarket and randomly attacks customers with it, including a baby; another steals a knife from a roadside snack bar and starts attacking passers-by; a third gets into an argument with a woman, picks her 2-year-old girl out of her stroller and smashes her baby to the ground, killing her.

A spate of deadly knife attacks and other apparently random acts of violence in the past few days — many of them in the capital — has rattled the Chinese government and has many Chinese citizens wondering loudly what is becoming of their society.

Some incidents seem to have had political overtones. A disabled man in a wheelchair who detonated a homemade bomb in Beijing's airport on July 20 was apparently protesting because he had been beaten and paralyzed by security guards many years before and his complaints had been ignored.