Apr 19

“Chinese need to be controlled”

Written by Raj on Sunday, April 19th, 2009 at 12:08 pm
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Jackie Chan: Chinese People Need To Be Controlled

Action star Jackie Chan said Saturday he’s not sure if a free society is a good thing for China and that he’s starting to think “we Chinese need to be controlled.”

Chan’s comments drew applause from a predominantly Chinese audience of business leaders in China’s southern island province of Hainan.

I have often thought that actors should stay out of politics, though as everyone is entitled to their view this was a useful way of addressing something I’ve noticed in the past. It seems to me that rich Chinese can be quick to assert similar sentiments. Certainly the article mentioned that the business leaders applauded him on that point.

If all Chinese were incapable of making decisions no Chinese person could be a politician and China would be run by foreigners, so he must think some Chinese can be in control. Thus I suspect what people like Chan actually mean when they say these things, but could never say because they would be ripped to shreds, is “people with lots of money like me can act sensibly but the majority of Chinese are too dumb to make the right decisions”.

Chan added: “I’m gradually beginning to feel that we Chinese need to be controlled. If we’re not being controlled, we’ll just do what we want.”

So Chan thinks that currently Chinese are not doing what they want to do? Is their sense of freedom really just an illusion? This seems like a highly controversial statement to me.

What are your thoughts on these comments and more widely how poor, middle class and wealthy Chinese see this subject?

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16 Responses to ““Chinese need to be controlled””

  1. Nimrod Says:

    First of all, it’s just his own thought, which seems to be of interest mainly to the Taiwanese media. Also, your quoted translation is so bad it is at best a reinterpretation of what he said.

    What he said was “If we’re too free, then we’ll have the situation in Hong Kong today. Very chaotic. And like the situation in Taiwan, very chaotic, too. I’m beginning to think we Chinese need management. As soon as we are not managed, when we are let loose, we will stop at nothing.” It’s commentary (his) on the Chinese organizational character, and is not as controversial as you think.

  2. pug_ster Says:


    This is Western Propaganda at work here. Jackie Chan was chosen to talk about “Tapping into Asia’s Creative Industry Potential.” When he made this ‘Chinese needs to be controlled remark,’ he was replying about the need for Beijing to carefully regulate artistic and cultural expression. I think that this was the response to films like Kung Fu Panda and Rush hour 3 which does reflects poorly on China’s artistic and cultural expression. This off handed remark has nothing to do with the politics in Hong Kong and Taiwan.

  3. Nimrod Says:

    Well, I think he did end up referencing politics, but he was talking about it in the context of society. It’s got nothing to do with rich vs. poor. If anything he is decrying the lack of morality absent management (or control, or regulation, if you will). He is saying people may do things without regard to others, or without regard to responsibility. That could be rich people or poor people. In fact, at the same event he talked about poor quality Chinese goods and Sanlu milk.

    As I said, the Taiwanese media is only interested in the juicy parts to rile up its audience, which partially substantiates the kind of “chaos” Chan is talking about.

  4. pug_ster Says:


    Okay, maybe I misunderstood.


    That’s true, I checked out msnbc, cbsnews, and abcnews and they are using re-hashed associated press content mentioning nothing about why he said those things. Too bad that we do not have the whole speech by Jackie Chan about this whole thing but many news organizations just get bits and pieces of it to make up their opinions of what Jackie meant.

  5. miaka9383 Says:

    Tons of people are outraged by what Jackie said, especially the part about he doesn’t like to buy Made in China product because of its quality. Of course he exaggerated on his opinions because he is an Entertainer.
    I just don’t see all of the hoo haa about it….
    What he says are true. Hongkong and Taiwan are extremely unstable and China’s products are defective. Shouldn’t this cause someone to pause and think.. “yeah! maybe we can do better!!!”

  6. Charles Liu Says:

    First of all Jackie Chan is entitled to his opinion. Secondly is what he said, about responsibility and accountability, really that bad?

    I for one wish many of my fellow Americans in the mortgage, investiment, bond rating, banking industries have been under control more severe than the Chinese government is capable of – then perhaps we could avoid this horrible financial melt-down that is affecting grate many around the globe.

  7. Otto Kerner Says:

    I will be happy to serve as emperor to manage and control things so that Chinese people will not stop at nothing. 望自成龙!

  8. flags of the republic Says:

    @ Otto #7,

    You can make DL your Premier or PM while you are at it. Maybe then, his “Greater Toad Bed” thing would stand a snowball’s chance — even better, Chinaman’s chance .

    People have been try to tell Chinese people how they should live their lives, what they can do with their things, etc. for ages.

    I guess for some, it is their God given obligation — “The Whiteman’s Burden” as they say.

    Maybe that’s why you are so quick to volunteer. 😉

    Sorry Otto, you left yourself completely open. Have to take that jab.

    Hey, just bear in mind that you’re not the only one I am making fun of here. Let see how many people actual get the 2nd part of the satire.

  9. Otto Kerner Says:

    You’re right, flags of the republic. How dare anyone try to tell Chinese people how to live their lives, or stop them from doing whatever they want! I repent!

  10. flags of the republic Says:

    Otto, you’re forgiven. Don’t let it happen again.

  11. Allen Says:

    I don’t know if Jackie meant to make a political statement – but I guess the effect is he did.

    Among other things – Jackie seems to have said:

    I’m not sure if it’s good to have freedom or not. I’m really confused now. If you’re too free, you’re like the way Hong Kong is now. It’s very chaotic. Taiwan is also chaotic.

    While that may be a very pro-CCP thing to say, I don’t think Jackie was necessarily kowtowing to the CCP, for Jackie also seems to have said:

    If I need to buy a TV, I’ll definitely buy a Japanese TV. A Chinese TV might explode.

    If I have to make a bet, I’d bet that Jackie is playing half an entertainer here and we are all guilty of reading too much into his statements (would you take everything Jay Leno say seriously?).

    Anyways – since Jackie does have us talking – what do I think?

    While some may like to think Jackie is condoning corruption in politics – or an underdeveloped judiciary, I don’t think so.

    I think what Jackie is talking about is that it’s important for the country to subscribe to one vision and focus on stability – to ask not what the country can provide for you, but what you can do to contribute to the nation.

    The alternative is lack of focus – lack of a goal for society – a sense of selfish entitlement which seems to have characterized Hong Kong of the past decade to some extent – and Taiwan even more so under the DPP.

    This kind of so-called freedom for the sake of freedom characterizes a spinning rudderless boat. Problem is when everyone has a hand on the rudder – it’s as if no hand is on the rudder.

    For China today, there are places to go – objectives to meet – goals to accomplish. We can’t afford a rudderless boat.

    The purpose of government is to govern – not to serve as a playground for politicians to play games.

    Bravo Jackie for speaking your mind!

  12. Wukailong Says:

    I don’t think either “controlled” or “managed” are very good translations. I didn’t even know what Jackie had said when I first read this English translation and suspected, when I read Nimrod’s comment, that he used the word “管理”. Not so… What he said, originally:


    管 is a tough beast to translate. I would say it belong somewhere in between “control” and “manage”. Of course, what you mean by “manage” in itself is quite difficult to say. 😉 Also, “do what they want” doesn’t have the same ring to it as “为所欲为”, which is more negative.

    I’m not going to join the debate as to whether Jackie was right or not to say this… Just recommend an article on Phoenix about it (乔新生: “成龙先生,在中国究竟谁最该被管”):


  13. Nimrod Says:

    Yes, Wukailong, it takes context to pick the best word.

    管 could be control, manage, regulate, supervise, bother about, take responsibility over. I think manage or regulate are the best of those to render his original intention, which was neutral in connotation. You can also see that’s the meaning native listeners ascribe to it in the article you linked to, where it read “‘中国人是要管的’,其他国家的人何尝不需要管理?”

    为所欲为 literally means do whatever one wants to do, but as you rightly recognized, it has negative connotation. It means really to do more than is allowed, more than is considered right, or to do without any thought about responsibility, without restraint. I rendered it as to stop at nothing. A stronger synonym is 无法无天, lit. no law no heaven, i.e. act with lawless disregard.

    These two words are really quite interesting to translate, because if you translate them literally they give the wrong meaning. You can see the terrible result of that in the news articles and the humorously incomprehensible comments that followed them. The real meanings lie in the cultural cues. To Western ears, “control” has negative connotation, whereas 管 does not. To Western ears, “to do what one wants” is very positive, whereas 为所欲为 is the opposite!

    Now just think how many articles on China contain these kinds of crap translations that make things come out wrong.

  14. Chops Says:

    Spokesman: Jackie Chan comments out of context

    “Solon So, the chief executive of Chan’s company JC Group and his main spokesman, told The Associated Press in a phone interview Tuesday the actor was referring to freedom in the entertainment industry and not Chinese society at large.”

    “Some people with ulterior motives deliberately misinterpreted what he was saying,” So said


  15. Nimrod Says:

    It’s too bad he has to do damage control. Indeed he took a question about movie ratings and freedom of artistic expression. But in his answer he appealed to general social observations. Nothing wrong with giving a sweeping answer — we do that here all the time.

    Despite all-negative reports from the usual suspects, I actually see a lot of comments on overseas Chinese forums that say he told the truth that everybody already knew, but he could have used more tact.

  16. dan Says:

    I think what he meant may be that Chinese need a strong government or the country/society will become an anarchist state – 无法无天. In other words, the concept of self-governed is the point Chan was probably trying to convey. Accepting the responsibility to one’s self and respecting the rights of others- my rights end where yours begin- which is a foundation of a stable society. Freedom doesn’t equal to 为所欲为.

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