John Cena apologizes to China for calling Taiwan a country in ‘F9’ interview

John Cena in a dark suit and striped yellow tie
John Cena found himself apologizing Tuesday after calling Taiwan a country.
(Richard Shotwell / Associated Press)

John Cena, the most recent addition to the “Fast and Furious” film family, apologized to China on Tuesday for referring to Taiwan as a country — implying it was independent of China — in a recent interview promoting the international release of Universal Studios’ “F9.”

“I must say, this is very, very, very, very, very, very important, I love and respect China and Chinese people,” the actor said in Mandarin in a video posted on Chinese social media site Weibo (and translated to English via Vice News producer Tony Lin). “I am very very sorry for my mistake. You must understand, I really love and respect China and Chinese people.”

He added, “I did a lot of interviews. In one interview, I made a mistake.”

Cena’s apparent error? While talking last week to TV station TVBS, which is based in Taipei, he reportedly said, “Taiwan is the first country that can watch” the new action movie.


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In doing so, the 44-year-old stepped into fraught territory: Taiwan is a self-governed democratic island of 24 million; China has regarded it as a breakaway province since the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949.

Gaffe or not, “F9” opened Friday in China and took in $136 million over the weekend, according to Deadline.

Fun fact: The wrestler-turned-actor has studied Mandarin for years, initially so he could help promote his sport overseas. Less fun: Universal Studios, the film’s distributor, reportedly canceled a planned media event in Shanghai last Tuesday, citing a nonspecific security threat. It is unclear whether the apology video was related in any way to that cancellation.

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Coincidentally, “F9” — which also stars Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Jordana Brewster, Ludacris and Charlize Theron — was directed by a Taiwanese American: Justin Lin, 49, grew up in Buena Park after immigrating to the U.S. from Taiwan when he was 8.


It’s Lin’s fourth directorial effort in the “Fast” franchise. “F9” is slated to open June 25 in the United States.