John Cena has shown off his ability to speak in Mandarin in interviews for years, a skill that’s come in handy for the WWE wrestler turned movie star as Hollywood as tried to court the lucrative Chinese film market in recent years. But now Cena has attracted unwanted attention for a comment he gave in one of those interviews, when he referred to Taiwan as a country,
After saying that “Taiwan is the first country that can watch” his new film F9: The Fast Saga in an interview with Taiwan’s TVBS, Cena later posted a video to the Chinese social network Weibo apologizing for the comments:
According to The New York Times, Cena’s comments translate to “I made a mistake. Now I have to say one thing which is very, very, very important: I love and respect China and Chinese people. I’m very sorry for my mistakes. Sorry. Sorry. I’m really sorry.” The Times also notes that China considers Taiwan “a breakaway province and claims it as part of China” and that calling it a country is an “offensive assertion in China.”
Cena’s comments — and quick apology — show how American companies try to navigate the thorny political issues that can arise when doing business with China. It’s now common practice for studios to ensure their scripts will pass the country’s censors before they go into production, lest they risk being banned from release there, a decision that can cost hundreds of millions of dollars in ticket sales. F9: The Fast Saga is now playing internationally. It’s scheduled to open in the U.S. on June 25.