John Cena Apologizes After Calling Taiwan a Country

John Cena has apologized after referring to Taiwan as a country during an interview promoting his new movie, F9. Speaking to Taiwanese broadcaster TVBS, Cena said in Mandarin, "Taiwan is the first country that can watch F9," a comment that resulted in controversy and backlash from many people in China.

Taiwan is a self-governed democratic island, but CNN explained that China considers Taiwan as its sovereign territory even though the two sides have been ruled separately for over 70 years. In China, referring to Taiwan as a country is often seen as offensive, and many fans were not happy with Cena's comment. China is one of Hollywood's largest international markets and the Fast & Furious franchise has traditionally been incredibly popular there, and Cena apologized in a video posted on Tuesday to his account on Weibo, a popular Chinese social media website similar to Twitter.

The WWE star did not directly address the incident but told fans in Mandarin, "I did many, many interviews for Fast & Furious 9. In one of the interviews I made a mistake." The actor explained that he was given "a lot of information" and was asked to conduct the interview in Mandarin. "I love and respect China and Chinese people. I'm very, very sorry for my mistake. Sorry, sorry. I'm very sorry," he concluded, via Newsweek. "You must understand I love and respect China and Chinese people."

Cena has over 600,000 followers on Weibo and often posts videos on the platform in Mandarin, which he has been studying for years. While some fans accepted his apology, others were less inclined to forgive him because he did not explicitly say that Taiwan is part of China. "Please say 'Taiwan is part of China' in Chinese, otherwise we will not accept," one person wrote in response. A more supportive commenter offered, "Looking at his previous interviews, I can feel that he really likes China. He said the wrong thing and paid the price. He is different from other foreign actors who dare not respond or have different political opinions."

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F9 has opened overseas in several countries including China and Russia and earned nearly $136 million in China over the weekend. The movie is scheduled to arrive in theaters in the United States on June 25 after being delayed for over a year due to the pandemic. Cena stars as Jacob, the estranged brother of Vin Diesel's Dom Toretto and the film's main antagonist.