John Cena is facing backlash this week after bowing to pressure from the People’s Republic of China (PRC) to renounce his statement that Taiwan is a country.
The professional wrestler and actor made the comment during a promotional interview for his new movie, “Fast and the Furious 9.” The PRC, which considers Taiwan a self-ruled province that is part of China, demanded an apology from Cena who quickly obliged in a video recorded in Mandarin on the Chinese website, Weibo:
“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. 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,”
Users in China took to social media to note that they were unhappy with the apology because Cena stopped short of saying that Taiwan is part of China.
Cena’s apology was met with criticism from media personalities and everyday Americans alike who expressed their disdain for the wrestler’s appeasement to Twitter, some even calling the move “pathetic”:
— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) May 25, 2021
Cena should be asked on his little movie promotion junket if he accepts or rejects the US State Department’s conclusion that China is engaged in genocide against ethnic and religious minorities of color in Xinjiang. So should LeBron, for that matter. https://t.co/7lLhlkOZnR
— Guy Benson (@guypbenson) May 25, 2021
Why not call a decades-long healthy and functioning democracy a country? Because much of Hollywood operates in fear of Beijing, many of its blockbuster movies dependent on the mainland Chinese market. https://t.co/2mPcNAT6R3
— Jim Sciutto (@jimsciutto) May 25, 2021
“Pathetic @JohnCena. Just pathetic,” radio host and former congressman Joe Walsh tweeted.
“Every actor who appears in a film production that capitulates to China because of $$$ should be asked this. Sorry guys, if you want to be brave activists, you’re going to be treated as such, and you’re going to be exposed as actual cowards when it comes to your paycheck,” Stephen L. Miller wrote on Twitter.
This is not the first time in recent years that Hollywood has folded to pressure from Communist China despite its numerous human rights abuses. In a report issued last year, Pen America, a freedom of expression organization, explored Hollywood’s allegiance to the Communist regime:
“Studio parent companies have a slate of Chinese business interests.
Disney, for example, has a 47 percent stake in the Shanghai Disneyland Park, which opened in 2016 and which cost over $5.5 billion to build.
Universal Studios, meanwhile, is planning to open the Universal Beijing Resort next year—complete with two theme parks, six hotels, a waterpark, and an entertainment complex—with construction reportedly continuing even during the coronavirus pandemic.
All of these business pressures combine so that, in the words of University of California Los Angeles Professor Michael Berry, Hollywood studios “would be silly not to address the censors.
The Hollywood companies are increasingly savvy and increasingly paranoid.
Instituting self-censorship is the way to go, especially as the big mainstream blockbusters need China. Hollywood has internalized these self-censorship mechanisms.”
Even the NBA was embroiled in its own scandal with the PRC in 2019 after Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey tweeted in support of Hong Kong protests but later deleted the tweet after backlash from China, one of the largest markets for the NBA.
Cena responded to the fallout with a cryptic tweet on Tuesday:
Being discouraged by failure is normal, being detained by failure can be toxic. Learn, rise, grow. Never give up.
— John Cena (@JohnCena) May 25, 2021