Angelina Jolie pissed off China by making an off-the-cuff remark about Taiwan


Here are some new photos from Angelina Jolie and UK Foreign Secretary William Hague’s Global Summit to End Sexual Violence In Conflict. These pics are from today, where Angelina screened In the Land of Blood and Honey and gave a speech to a large crowd. Brad Pitt came out to support because Brad supports his lady’s humanitarian work. I’ve always believed Angelina changed him too, made him more interested in humanitarianism and giving back. Angelina also gave an interview to CNN – you can see a clip here.

Anyway, Angelina was in China last week to promote the Chinese premiere of Maleficent. It was her first time promoting a film in China, and she made a point to praise the country and shill her movie. She also brought Brad along – Brad (and his movies) had been banned from China following Seven Years in Tibet, a film which made China look bad, etc. But as it turned out, Angelina is also stepped in controversy too. I covered her remarks and I idly wondered (to myself) if there was going to be any blow-back, and it’s happened. Here’s what Angelina said when she was asked whether she would like to work with any Chinese film directors or actors:

“I’m not sure if you consider Ang Lee Chinese, he’s Taiwanese but he does many Chinese-language films with many Chinese artists and actors, and I think his work and the actors in his films are the ones I’m most familiar with and are very fond of.”

[Via Previous CB story]

Do you see the controversy? It’s there, you just need to have “THERE IS ONLY ONE CHINA” tattooed on your body and have a hair-trigger temper. The controversy is that Angelina spoke as if Taiwan is completely separate from the People’s Republic of China. This is what happened:

By suggesting that Taiwan and China are totally separate countries, Jolie has angered Chinese communists who feel that Taiwan is a rogue state that belongs to the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Taiwan is instead governed by the Republic of China, who were ousted from governing the whole of China in 1949; the PRC doesn’t recognise its sovereignty, and claims Taiwan as its own province. Relations are frosty but calm between the two powers, but culturally there remain deep divisions.

“In a moment of excitement, a brilliant woman became a stupid laughing stock,” wrote one user of social media service Weibo, while another described her as a “deranged Taiwan independence supporter”. Another suggested that anyone seeing Maleficent would be “traitorious”. In Taiwan meanwhile, she received support, with one person writing: “Her comment about Ang Lee being Taiwanese shows she fully deserves to be the goodwill ambassador for the UN. She is not afraid to tell the truth.”

[From The Guardian]

So now there’s talk of Angelina being “banned” in China too. Seriously. Because she identified Ang Lee as Taiwanese. Which he is. If she was looking for an “out” of this controversy, she could just say that she wasn’t making a value judgment of whether Taiwan “belongs” to China, she was just identifying what PART of China he’s from. Like, I’m an American but I wouldn’t be mad if I was identified as a “Virginian.” But I suspect she won’t make any clarifying statement, because even though she’s politically savvy and smart enough to navigate out of this mess, she’s probably smart enough to know that you shouldn’t play word games with China.



Photos courtesy of WENN.

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114 Responses to “Angelina Jolie pissed off China by making an off-the-cuff remark about Taiwan”

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  1. Toot says:

    They look great. Love that Brad supports her.

  2. Ilove6kies says:

    She is 200% right – I am from Taiwan, I am Taiwanese. I definitely don’t need China’s approval :)

    • Chris says:

      Sure. Just as an Irish person objects when ROI is included in UK surveys, for example.
      *edit* bad example too… Take a proud Scot within the UK.
      (I’ll get my coat…)

      • Ilove6kies says:

        In Taiwan, we have our own president.

        In Taiwan, the society is democratic as opposed to communism.

        In Taiwan, we have our very own passport.

        In Taiwan, we have freedom of speech.

        Just one of the few examples I can think of that have me slightly confused with you bringing up Ireland vs England

      • Miffy says:

        Most Irish people would object as the Republic of Ireland is a separate country (that would be akin to including Canada or Mexico in US surveys). Northern Ireland, on the other hand, is still technically British. Therein lies the commotion as cultural identity continues to be (sometimes aggressively) divided.

        So, as an example, yeah, it’s a good one. It would draw a pretty definitive line for someone high-profile to publicly correct themselves in an interview by identifying a Northern Irish native as Irish or English.

      • Chris says:

        Apologies for confusion …. (Mine I mean) maybe my original ROI bit stands after all, but ignore it, please. (I’d delete but don’t know how)

      • Ciara says:

        Ireland is a completely separate country. Northern Ireland is part of the UK technically.

      • Pandy says:

        My mother is from Northern Ireland and she identifies as Irish, definitely not British. I would suspect it’s the same for the Taiwanese. They do not identify as Chinese.

      • feebee says:

        i wondered if the Irish/British thing would come up.

        @Miffy, there’d definitely have to be a correction if they called a Northern Irishman English instead of British :) Even then it’d depend on the person. My grandmother was from NI and the sweetest, but call her British and well then. you’d see the sharp side of her. Needless to say we buried her under the Irish flag.

      • mynameispearl says:

        I’m from the north of Ireland and identify as Irish and hold an Irish passport, however you can also identify as British and hold a British passport if you want to. Although we are technically part of the UK we’re allowed to correct people who say that we’re not Irish we’re British lol!

      • Lady D says:

        Can you have both an Irish and British passport at the same time?

      • Nighty says:

        But the British are the inhabitants of Britain, and Britain is the big island, right? At school, I learnt the UK was comprised of Northern Ireland and Britain. And Britain was Scotland, Wales and England.. And yes, I’m aware it’s offensive for a Scottish if I call him British… Also learnt that it’s English, Welsh, Scottish and Irish… So complicated..
        Always learnt that British was the inhabitant of the island… that it wasn’t actually related to the UK or the Queen… The island is Great Britain, hence British…
        Hope I’m not offending anyone, just clearing doubts…

      • Sixer says:

        Lady D – according to the Good Friday Agreement, Northern Irish people can choose to identify as either British or Irish and can hold either British or Irish citizenship, or both (dual nationality), whichever they want.

        Nighty – Great Britain is a geographical entity – the largest of the British Isles (Great Britain, Ireland and all the smaller islands). This is different to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (or UK for short), which is a political entity or nation state. England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland make up the UK. So Britain is an inexact term technically. In common parlance, however, it’s a synonym for the UK.

  3. OhDear says:

    I knew that there was going to be drama after she said that! Not sure how she could smooth it over without digging a deeper hole for herself; people can get really batshit about the issue.

  4. truthSF says:

    That’s funny, because I’ve read a lot of posts from Chinese American defending Jolie, and stating that it’s only a very small group of ppl in China up in arms over her quotes. Plus she’s getting an outpouring amount of support from Taiwanese ppl. This article you quoted is very misleading in terms of how many ppl she angered, which is about 200 out of 1.3 billion.

  5. minime says:

    I thought about this when this sentence was posted previously and I was surprised that China was OK with it. I believe she said it like that not because she is “ignorant”, but because she is aware of the situation. I think she was quite polite in the way she said it, acknowledging both parties involved. I love China as a country full of an amazing history and art, but this side (the political) makes me sad. They should have let it go and it would look way better for them.

  6. Nick says:

    You know, I always find it crazy that so many celebrities say amazingly dumb things to the press. For example – the Scar Jo soda stream gaza strip fiasco. However, I had no idea that this was such a touchy subject and sort of feel sorry for Angelina.

  7. Miffy says:

    Oh please! She knew what she was saying, nothing ‘off the cuff’ here. Go, Angie! Glad to see she hasn’t totally lost herself in attempting to be a PC Earth Mother. For the sake of seeming unbiased in her humanitarian work she’s had to curb so many of the out-spoken opinions that got her to that position in the first place. Nice to see her little humanitarian rebel is still rattling around in there.

  8. Hannah says:

    Does Brad really need to be wearing sunglasses to the conference? Slightly douchy.

  9. lenje says:

    Haven’t read abt the Chinese getting angry about it. This said, Jolie has been working with the UN for so long, she must’ve been aware of the sensitivity of the issue. Even the UNSG had made some slip of tongue before, but the spokesperson office will usually try to correct them. I don’t even remember Jolie making a comment after the Ukraine case, so it’s pretty surprising for me that she made a reference to Taiwan, because China can interpret it as attacking their territorial integrity.

    • Kim1 says:

      She was asked about Ang Lee I’m confused when has she been asked about Ukraine or a Ukrainian?

      • lenje says:

        You’re right, she has probably never been asked about Ukraine. Or IF she had been, she had probably refused to answer, I dunno.

        Anyway, saying “I’m not sure if you consider Ang Lee Chinese, he’s Taiwanese but he does many Chinese-language films with many Chinese artists and actors…” does imply to the separate entity of Taiwan. Taiwan IS de facto a separate entity, but the UN doesn’t recognize it. And the UN is an intergovernmental body, which works are based on certain rules, among others the respect to the principle of territorial integrity (part of the UN Charter). The One China Policy adopted by the UN means “there is only one China and Taiwan is a part of China”. Jolie has been careful in her words most of the time, and many are saying (and I agree with them) it’s because she understands the responsibility her special envoy title bears with. I don’t see any reason why she would opt for the Taiwan reference. She could’ve just said “Ang Lee does many Chinese-language films”. I think she also knows Taiwanese speak Mandarin, just like the people in the Mainland, only IIRC in quite different accent.

        This quite lengthy argument doesn’t mean that I’m on the Chinese side (with regard to Taiwan), because personally I couldn’t care less. Taiwan has never caused anything that would strain regional or international instability. On the other hand, territorial integrity is one of the most politically sensitive issues. I work for a mission to the UN, so I know I would be pissed off if a UN personality says something in public that infringe on that principle.

  10. serena says:

    I feel like China’s government is just trying to pick a fight with everything and everyone. It’s ridiculous.

  11. MsMercury says:

    I’m not sure why she didn’t name another Chinese director since that was the question. However I don’t see a big deal with the answer. (I know there is a long history and conflict between Taiwan and China that the Chinese are hanging onto and surely Angie knows about…)

  12. lisa2 says:

    If the Chinese Government was upset by what was said it would have been known and not taken a week to come out.

    a poster on another site said things have been calmed down and this is not a big deal. But I guess the US press is just picking it up and her detractors are working overtime posting this over and over again.

  13. lily says:

    Lol, those Chinese need to calm down. Even Ang Lee identified himself as Taiwanese, so I don’t find anything wrong with her comment. Chinese nationalist keep saying Taiwan is part of their country, but I don’t see many Taiwanese calling themselves “Chinese”.

  14. videli says:

    We shouldn’t expect Sina Weibo to be representative for what mainland Chinese think and talk about, especially when it comes to a number of select issues that breach the party line or the occasional administrative mismanagement scandal. It’s an otherwise fascinating and vibrant community, but one that’s closely monitored.

  15. phlyfiremama says:

    Ask China, Taiwan is a part of China. Ask Taiwan, and they are a seperate country. The plain truth is that, like Tibet, China will NEVER voluntarily relinquish possession. There is not a country in the world that CAN-or WILL-step in to change that balance, either. Sure, there will be political grandstanding and statements of condemnation but the fact is that there isn’t a nation on this planet-including the US-that will do anything about it. Taiwan lies in the geographical sphere/influence of China, and there is no stepping out of that shadow. Look at the situation with Japan, for example-after the 2011 tsunami, and in spite of the fact that fukushima STILL spews out fatal levels of radiation, China hasn’t done a single thing to help. They are in fact struggling with Japan over claimed ownership of an island chain, which has been quietly escalating for some time now. Again, no one is powerful enough to stop China from doing that.

    • Keri says:

      I lived in Taiwan as an expat for a few years- what I took away is Taiwan is full of both; Chinese republic supporters, and those who want to be an autonomous nation. Taiwan is referred to in country as the R.O.C (republic of china). I always thought that was strange. Taiwan is one of two (??) countries who have NO US Embassy. Mainland Chinese will always try to take some of the credit on what the real nationality of the person in question, but I’ll say people like Ang Lee and Jeremy Lin (in Taiwan) we’re viewed as such….Taiwanese!!!!

    • lrm says:

      well, at the moment, taiwan is a separate country. US military have had a presence in that narrow strip of water between the island and the mainland. Taiwanese have their own passport and government. So, it’s not like tibet at all in many regards. Also, trade between the west and Taiwan was very important, plus politically strategic, prior to the gates of china opening in that regard. I have no doubt china would like to send troops just like in tibet, but taiwan has a modern and layered history, including japenese influence as well as native/indigenous formosans on the island. Taiwan is too visible for them to do so at this point in time. It was industrialized before most of china, as well. Time will tell….

      • lenje says:

        The US has the Taiwan Relations Act, which basically serves as the US’s commitment to protect Taiwan should China use coercive measures against Taiwan, which entered into force following US’s recognition of the People’s Republic of China in 1979. As with all other countries, One China Policy is the prerequisite of diplomatic relations between China and the US.

  16. peggy says:

    I was born in Taiwan and raised in the US. I am Taiwanese if anyone asks me and will correct them if they ask if I’m Chinese. People need to know the difference!

  17. murphy says:

    Doesn’t Taiwan go to the olympics with a team separate from China? (Chinese Taipe)
    If they do that, why is this comment so controversial?

  18. Adrien says:

    She’s right. I know Ang Lee wants to be known as Taiwanese. So did Jeremy Lin, Houston Rockets guard. In China, Lee and Lin are known as Chinese-Americans. They would never credit them as Taiwanese. So yeah, that’s a diplomatic faux pas by AJ. Don’t even know why she’s promoting her movie there.

  19. Talie says:

    So a few people on Weibo got their panties in a bunch — I agree, she can just ignore it.

  20. Chinoiserie says:

    I red this comment before (I think from here) and I thought it would be suprising if there was no controversy.

  21. FW says:

    best stay away from politics these actors/actresses. I’m Chinese from China. so hilarious to see how the discussion would develop. one thing for certain is that AJ can stay put because she’s not as important or famous in China as she assumes. world cup is the trending topic. in terms of celebrity gossip, I think tom hiddleston was falsely identified as married generated more percussion online than her remarks.

    people in China who know about AJ usually know her support for dalai lama or separatism and sneer at her; others just don’t know her and don’t care.

    but still curious to know how her movie will flare in China box office.

    • lisa2 says:


      You are really saying Angelina is not known in China.. yeah

    • Alexis says:

      How and when did Angie assume she is important in China??? And it was the chineses that made a fuss over nothing. Ridiculous!

    • Sushi says:

      I don’t think she assumes anything. The media assumes for her.

    • lrm says:

      Um, she was asked about her favorite chinese directors, etc., while in china for the promo tour. She responded by not wanting to seem ignorant [i am assuming] that ang lee is taiwanese-b/c she said ang lee is the one she is familiar with. I think that was her only knowledge re: chinese films so in order to not appear ignorant and say ‘uh uh, i don’t know any chinese films’, she said ang lee. Then, to qualify, she added, i know he is taiwanese not sure if you consider that him chinese. I think she didn’t want to offend china by not saying a chinese film maker.

      lol.. She stepped into a land mine with her answer, but I don’t think she was intending at all to get into politics. She should have brushed up on chinese film ahead of time, or maybe answered ‘Oh, there are too many chinese films to mention, that I love so much’. That would have been the perfect saving face answer, I think. so many, dahlings….

    • katy says:

      The Chinese government has been claiming a lot of other countries’ territories and will bully anybody who does not bow down to their claims.

  22. LAK says:

    Man I feel as if I entered Monty Python’s life of Brian….The Republic of china?….no, no, no we are the People’s republic of China, you’ll find the republic of China over there!

  23. Raised Brow says:

    Probably just me, but William Hague is beginning to look ‘HOT’.
    Let the mass shade commence.

  24. FLORC says:

    If AL corrected this and not China I would take it as credible. Instead it’s very much lead by how Kaiser describes those behind the hubub (sp?). They have a large “There is only 1 China” tattoo.

    OR this is just a backdoor way for China to ban a high profile woman who’s really big into human rights and advocating for those suffering.

  25. jane16 says:

    Yay Angie! I love people who tell it like it is. I went to Taiwan in the 90s. We visited their amazing museum and flew around the country, which was beautiful.

  26. Miss M says:

    I have friends from Taiwan and China. Whenever people ask the Taiwanese where they are from they answer Taiwan, never China.

  27. lrm says:

    No, the chinese are not mad b/c she identified ang lee as taiwanese, but b/c she questioned whether taiwan is part of china. ROC [Republic of China-aka taiwan] is a different country from people’s republic of china [china]. They are not the same country, despite what china believes should be reality. The US has maintained naval ships in that very narrow strait for decades [strategic interest].
    As mentioned already, Taiwan is democratic; it is a completely different place, despite having some cultural similarities. I lived in taiwan; it’s different than china] The cultural/intellectual elite who were to be destroyed by mao during china’s cultural revolution, fled to the island and created their own government.
    I’m guessing Jolie did not want to offend china by seeming like she was ignorant of the fact that ang lee is taiwanese. She tried to cover her butt with careful wording and people still took offense. It was a bit of a no win situation/question for her, IMO. The only other thing she could have done was brushed up ahead of time on chinese movies to have a currently popular mainland chinese director or actor name at the ready.

    Also, saying taiwanese vs. china is nothing like saying virginian vs. californian. the ireland and UK comparison is a good one.

  28. Just Me (and my Bobby McGee) says:

    Sad, sad situation in China. Was there just a few months ago and I spent the whole trip pissed off at some of the things I was witnessing. Leading world economy my ass. I had wondered about AJ being in Taiwan, considering she’s such a huge humanitarian. Taiwan doesn’t identify as Chinese, but you can bet your ass China lays claim to Taiwan. As well as pretty much the whole world. It’s not just Japan they’re fighting with (as referenced above). They’re currently having border disputes with all of the island countries around them: Korea, Japan, Phillipines – they’re even BUILDING in Vietnam (but Vietnam is fighting back). If you guys are worried about war – it’s not the Middle East you need to worry about. It’s China & Russia you need to be watching. China is to Asia as Russia has been to Europe recently. If you aren’t nervous, you should be. The two have the VERY REAL potential to destabilize BOTH Continents. Both are getting more brazen as the months go by. We may not have gotten involved in Europe, but there’s no doubt that there will be involvement in Asia.

    • Nighty says:

      Oh, but I’m very scared of what is going on in Crimea, a lot… Not seeing it coming to a good end…
      Actually, all of them scare me a lot… not just Russia…. we’ll see what the future holds, but it won’t be anything good for Western countries, in particular Europe, considering the rise of extreme right-winged parties in several countries.. Le Pen i France gives me the chills… It’s like going back to the 30′s..

      • Just Me (and my Bobby McGee) says:

        Crimea scares the hell out of me. It’s no coincidence, the timing on behalf of China & Russia. Recently, Russia made new alliances with North Korea, as well. Some of it is posturing, but a lot of it isn’t. Everyone is too busy paying attention to the Kardashians and dissecting some celeb’s interview to notice what’s going on right before them. It’s really scary stuff.

      • Nighty says:

        I do both, dissect some interviews and pay attention to the world.. after all I’m European and I’m seeing EU being smashed by other countries… Looking back at certain choices EU did, and how they’re affecting many countries’ economies, because “they” were interested in making deals with China… We’re going to pay dearly for all those commitments with China… (globalization and open markets… yeah.. Europe will have problems … )

    • Chris says:

      Yeah, I’ve been noticing a ratcheting up of tensions lately. I’m in Australia and last night our defense minister was giving an interview on TV and was asked if Australia would support the US if they got into a conflict with China. Our country has also recently purchased 50 fighter jets from the US at a cost of 12 billion dollars even though we’re facing no imminent threat. I definitely get the feeling that there are some tensions brewing beneath the surface and they may bubble up to the surface in the near future. Personally I think this is happening because China now has the world’s largest economy and is marching towards becoming the world’s most powerful nation. Obviously the US isn’t going to sit idly by and let this happen.

    • lily says:

      I’m from Vietnam and the oil rig incident in our EEZ is just a wake up call for how dangerous China can be. But I worried even more about Chinese brainwashing. So many Chinese just listen to their government and blindly support them in territorial disputes without asking why their country is at odds with nearly every neighbors.

    • phlyfiremama says:

      Factor in that China and Russia are such close allies (BRICS Alliance~their version of NATO/UN, with Brazil~Russia~India~China~South Africa being the major players) and you have a TRULY frightening situation on hand. I was in China in 2011 when the treaty was signed, all of those countries came TO CHINA in inferior positions to sign. China is the real power.

  29. xossip says:

    China only cares about face value with a bunch of corruption behind the scenes

  30. Amulla says:

    I guess she made a faux pas, but everyone needs to get over it. She doesn’t need to apologize at all. Its water under the bridge.

  31. Chris says:

    Imagine what would happen if Goop went to China. :)

  32. Radiatelight says:

    I am proud of Angelina for clarifying! China has tried to strip away Taiwan’s move for independence by taking away their flag at Olympic events, UN representation and corrupting the government by sending lots of Chinese citizens to the island to vote otherwise. I fully support Taiwan’s independence and respect those that truly understand the situation!

  33. Sky's the Limit says:

    What a lady! I’m an OVS Taiwanese and this deepens my respect for her. Ang Lee indeed does self-identify as Taiwanese, though he is from a “mainlander” family (parents born in China). However his wife is very much pro-unification with China. I think Ang Lee leans towards independence, but he never gets into politics in his interviews.

    The fact is the majority of Chinese (whether you believe they’ve been brainwashed into believing it or not) believe Taiwan should “return.”

    While Taiwanese – esp overseas Taiwanese – love to rattle on about independence, the fact is that they did not vote for it in the past two elections. The very pro-unification party won in the last two rounds and has been taking very harsh measures to integrate the economy and making it easy for Chinese to settle in Taiwan.

    So the question is totally moot, because the permanent Taiwanese residents basically voted for unification when they put the KMT back in power. But there was a moment, about a decade ago, with the DPP (and earlier with President Lee Tung Hui from the KMT) when Taiwan might have had a chance.

    Still, it’s wonderful when people know about Taiwan, esp mega stars like Jolie, can tell the difference, because Taiwanese are as distinct from Chinese as people from the States are from the Brits (totally different accent, individual rights, economy, living standards, food, culture, etc). Sean Connery also once made a comment about Taiwan to the pro-indepedence president Chen Shui Bian when they met at some event – he sympathises, being Scottish.

  34. Camille (The Original) says:

    Love the pant suit. Much, much better than that old lady outfit she was wearing the other day.

  35. taxi says:

    My friends who moved from Taiwan to U.S. as children speak a different dialect than many (Mainland) Chinese and cannot converse in Mandarin or Cantonese.

    • Sky's the Limit says:

      Mandarin is the official language but many of the older generation speak Taiwanese / Hokkien dialect only, especially if they didn’t go to school in Taiwan. Some of the younger generation speak no Taiwanese. People think everyone speaks Chinese, so aren’t they all the same? The Taiwanese Mandarin accent vs Chinese Mandarin accents are like US vs UK English (or Australian or South African accented English) in terms of distinctiveness. You can pick it out straigh away. Other stuff such as culture and living standards are also totally different.

  36. Janet says:

    Taiwan is Taiwan and China is China. What is wrong with what she said if Ang Lee is indeed Taiwanese?

  37. moon says:

    Taiwan is a separate country. Chinese is an ethnicity, but ‘Chinese’ is also a nationality and therefore she’s right to clarify. Thank you Angie.

  38. Shan says:

    Taiwan is a different country!

  39. Paula says:

    It would read a little reaching of a political statement if you were described as “I don’t know if you consider him American. He’s Virginian but works with a lot of American people.” So your example isn’t really the same thing…

  40. Sandy says:

    China is always pissed. They think Okinawa belongs to them, too. I live in Japan, there are daily newspaper stories of their temper tantrums and acts of aggression. Let it go, guys! They’d plant a flag on the moon and suggest its mass originated on their continent if they could.