"Taiwan is the first country to watch Fast and Furious 9," John Cena told a Taiwanese broadcaster this month. In doing so, he unleashed the wrath of China, which has threatened to annex the self-governed island it views as its own territory. Cena sought to rectify that on Tuesday, following the film's $135.6 million weekend debut in China, per the Guardian. In a video message shared on Chinese social network Weibo, the actor and WWE wrestling champion speaks in Mandarin—which he has been studying for years—telling his 600,000 followers that he "made a mistake." "It's very, very, very, very, very, very important," the 44-year-old says, per NBC News. "I love and respect China and Chinese people. I'm very, very sorry for my mistake," he adds, without mentioning Taiwan.
The apology itself sparked a debate, with more than 10,000 comments, per the Guardian. Some were understanding. "Foreigners don't necessarily know China's politics, just like we don't necessarily know their politics," one user wrote, per NBC. Others not so much. "It's the western political correctness. He wants Chinese people to forgive him but he also doesn't want to offend idiot Taiwan and the West," wrote another. Yet another user demanded Cena say "Taiwan is a part of China" in Mandarin, "otherwise we won’t accept it." In 2018, China pressured international companies to refer to Taiwan as part of China while "threatening to block them for doing business in China if they failed to comply," per the BBC. More recently, the country has increased its military presence around the island. (More on that here.)