John Cena Apologizes To China For Calling Taiwan A Country While Promoting ‘F9’

John Cena is apologizing after causing an international incident while promoting F9. During a Taiwanese broadcast, the wrestler turned actor referred to Taiwan as a country, which sparked a major backlash in China as the People’s Republic does not recognize Taiwan as such. While speaking in Mandaran, Cena filmed a message on the popular Chinese social media platform Weibo, where he apologized to his Chinese fans as well as the entire nation.

“I’m sorry for my mistake,” Cena said. “I must say now, [it’s] very, very, very, very important [that] I love, and respect even more, China and the Chinese people.”

As for the comment that sparked the backlash, Cena was pumped to promote F9 debuting in eight international markets ahead of its opening in the U.S. next month, and he excitedly said, “Taiwan is the first country that can watch F9,” during a Taiwanese broadcast. While seemingly innocuous, the issue of Taiwan’s sovereignty is a powder keg when it comes to China. Via PEOPLE:

Taiwan has been a self-governed democratic island since the end of the Chinese Civil War over 70 years ago, but it’s still considered by Beijing as a territory claimed by the People’s Republic of China. Any suggestion of Taiwan’s independence is considered a major offense by China.

With the Chinese box office being an even more crucial revenue source as Hollywood films slowly return to theaters following a year of shutdowns and delays, it behooved Cena and Universal to apologize for the faux pas. Plus, F9 is Cena’s franchise debut, and he probably doesn’t want to be the guy that accidentally detonated the foreign box office for one of the biggest film series of all time.