The professional wrestler and actor accidentally wandered into a very charged political topic in China. Beijing considers Taiwan a self-ruled democratic island and a province that is part of China. Therefore, referring to it as its own entity is considered offensive in China and disrespectful for some who may use it as an excuse to question Taiwan’s relationship to the country.
Cena was promoting his role in the upcoming ninth installment of the “Fast and Furious” franchise on a Taiwanese broadcaster when he said, in Mandarin, “Taiwan is the first country that can watch ‘F9,’” according to The New York Post.
His comments sparked an immediate backlash in China, which could have meant disaster for the film in one of its principal international markets. In order to address the backlash, Cena took to the Chinese social media site Weibo to issue an apology in Mandarin, which he has studied in the past in order to help promote his wrestling career internationally. He then shared the same video on Twitter.
“Hi China, I’m John Cena. I’m in the middle of ‘Fast and Furious 9’ promotions. I’m doing a lot of interviews. I made a mistake in one of my interviews,” he said (via the NYPost).
“I made one mistake. I have to say something very, very, very important now. I love and respect China and Chinese people. I’m very, very sorry about my mistake. I apologize, I apologize, I’m very sorry. You must understand that I really love, really respect China and the Chinese people. My apologies. See you,” he concluded.
Despite addressing the situation, many were still unsatisfied with Cena’s apology video, noting that despite acknowledging he made a mistake, he has yet to directly say that Taiwan is a part of China.
Despite the interview gaffe, “F9” still performed well in China, where it opened early ahead of its June 25 debut in the U.S. Variety reports that the latest installment in the action franchise raked in an impressive $ 137 million in its opening weekend at the Chinese box office.