While doing the press rounds to promote the Chinese release of F9 (aka Fast & Furious 9), John Cena made a big ol’ whoopsie: During his interview with TVBS—a Taiwanese newscast—Cena referred to Taiwan as a country. That might seem like your garden variety slip-up rooted in Western ignorance, but it’s actually a pretty unfortunate mistake to make, especially on TV in China. Cena quickly attempted to turn the situation around by hopping on popular Chinese social media platform Weibo, where he delivered an apology in Mandarin, according to The Hill. Sidestepping specifics, Cena admitted he “made a mistake,” and said it’s “very, very, very, very important I love, and respect even more, China and the Chinese people.”
Quick background: Taiwan, or the Republic Of China, was democratized in the ’90s and has claimed independence ever since. The People’s Republic Of China refuses to acknowledge Taiwan’s independence or status as a democratic country, and has refused to engage diplomatically with countries that recognize Taiwan as the Republic Of China. The US has a complicated relationship with the PRC, which is set to surpass the US as the largest global economy within the next several years. For the sake of this particular situation, it’s also important to note that China is the largest contributor to the global box office—and the Fast & Furious franchise is very popular over there.
Cena’s apology is the sort of vague response that’s meant to please no one and everyone at the same time, but some folks weren’t buying it on either side of of the political divide. Commentator Keith Olbermann called Cena’s apology “shameful”
People on the right were, as you might expect, also mad—but not for particularly good or smart reasons. (It’s mostly a lot of “SEE? Celebs are hypocrites!”) The one thing everyone seems to agree on is that the apology sucks and shouldn’t have happened.