WWE wrestler-turned-actor John Cena has posted a mea culpa video on his Weibo page after (correctly) referring to Taiwan as a country during his press run for Fast & Furious 9. While speaking in Mandarin, Cena groveled to mainland sensibilities while emphasizing his “love and respect for China and the Chinese people.” Watch the apology video below.
Without specifically mentioning Taiwan or the “mistake” itself, Cena explained he was given “a lot of information” and asked to conduct the interview in Chinese. “I’m sorry. I sincerely apologize,” Cena said in response to the social media backlash. “You must understand that I love and respect China and Chinese people.”
Earlier this month, Cena sat down with Taiwanese station TVBS for a promotional interview. While speaking in Mandarin, he mentioned “Taiwan will be the first country to see” F9. According to Taiwanese publication Apple Daily, a press conference scheduled for May 18th in Shanghai for the film’s premiere was canceled due to “threats.”
It is worth noting Cena has studied Mandarin for nearly a decade. At first, he made the effort to appeal to WWE fans, but now it has come in handy as he has shifted his focus toward Hollywood. “I’ve been studying Mandarin for five years and I still speak like a third grader,” he told The Straits Times in 2017.
Although Taiwan is a self-ruling democratic country, Beijing claims the island as part of China and considers it as a breakaway province. It’s a hot-button issue, leading Western companies and celebrities courting prospective consumers and fans to toe the political line rather than taking an actual stance.
For everyone involved with F9, the approach to one of the biggest Hollywood markets has paid off. According to Global Times, $135 million of its $162 million international opening weekend came from China.
In the movie, Cena stars as Jakob Toretto, the long-lost brother of Vin Diesel’s Dom. F9 is out in the US today.
We’ve reached out to representatives for Cena and Universal Pictures for comment.