John Cena issued a groveling apology to his fans in China after he called Taiwan a country during an interview for his new Fast & Furious movie F9.
Earlier this month the former WWE star told a Taiwanese news outlet that the island would be “the first country that can watch” the new film. The video clip has since been taken down.
While Taiwan views itself as a democratic, sovereign state after it broke away from China in 1949, the People’s Republic of China believes otherwise, claiming Taiwan is a territory. It has vowed to eventually regain control there, even by force.
So after decades of tension, Chinese nationals were outraged over Cena’s remarks, especially because the 44-year-old is a beloved celebrity there, primarily through his career in the WWE.
With China threatening to boycott the new movie, which has already raked in $135.6 million there, Cena addressed the backlash with his tail between his legs on the popular Chinese social media app Weibo on Tuesday.
“I made a mistake,” Cena apologized profusely in Chinese, which he has studied for years. “Now I have to say one thing which is very, very, very important: I love and respect China and Chinese people.”
Still, some Chinese fans weren't happy with Cena’s apology, wanting him to go even further and denounce Taiwan as a country.
The actor catering to the whims of Beijing under the threat of F9’s box office numbers being hurt was scorned by many on Twitter.
Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) called the move “pathetic,” and Ben Shapiro added his two cents, writing, “If you are unwilling to say these things because it might hurt your bottom line, you are a pathetic coward.”
Many brought up the controversy between the NBA’s Houston Rockets and China in 2019, when the basketball team’s general manager Daryl Morey liked a tweet that supported Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests. Lakers star LeBron James even got involved, blasting Morey as being “either misinformed or not really educated on the situation.”
The United States has often skirted the issue of officially recognizing Taiwan as a country, wary of causing an uproar with Beijing. President Donald Trump threatened to shake the tightrope of diplomacy after two high-ranking government officials visited Taipei during his term. The United Nations does not recognize Taiwan as a country because UN member China opposes it.