WWE wrestler and Fast & Furious star John Cena courted an avoidable controversy after accidentally wading into a territorial dispute by calling Taiwan a country while promoting Fast & Furious 9 in an interview to a Taiwanese media.
On Tuesday, the wrestler-turned-actor posted a 68-second video clip posted on the Chinese social media platform, Weibo, and issued an apology to China and his Chinese fans, clarifying his comments, though he did not directly mention Taiwan or its relationship with China.
“I made a mistake,” said John Cena in Mandarin. “I must say right now. It’s so so so so so so important, I love and respect Chinese people. I am very sorry for my mistakes. Sorry. Sorry. I am really sorry. You have to understand that I love and respect China and Chinese people.”
The 44-year-old actor first courted the controversy early this month when he told Taiwanese broadcaster TVBS that “Taiwan is the first country that can watch F9,” His comments enraged the Chinese and it became one of the most discussed topics on Chinese social media platform.
Fast and Furious 9, which was released in China on May 21, has already brought in $135 million (about Rs. 984 crores) for the makers in three days from China, making it the biggest worldwide launch for a Hollywood movie since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Considering China is one the biggest movie markets in the world, particularly so for the Fast and Furious franchise. So, the apology was imminent from the WWE superstar. But at the centre of this row is Taiwan’s status as an independent country.
While the Chinese see Taiwan as s an indispensable part of the territory and a breakaway province that will, eventually, be part of the country, many people in Taiwan consider the island as a separate nation. In recent years, the issue has been a bone of contention between China and the US.
A brief history
The dispute first began after the surrender of Japan during World War II, when The Republic of China - one of the victors in the war - began ruling Taiwan. In 1949, Nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek and his party Kuomintang party (KMT) fled to Taiwan with his supporters after civil unrest broke out in China. He was driven out, along with his troops, from mainland China by Mao Zedong's Communist armies
Taking refugee in Taiwan, KMT became a government in exile. During Chiang Kai-shek’s presidency in Taiwan, Chiang claimed to represent the whole of China and continued making preparations to take back mainland China. After he died in 1975, and after years of facing resistance from local people resentful of authoritarian rule, Chiang Kai-shek's son, Chiang Ching-Kuo, began allowing a process of democratisation. Democracy flourished in Taiwan, eventually leading to the election of the island's first non-KMT president, Chen Shui-bian, in 2000.
Over the next few years, links between the two peoples and economies have grown sharply, Although the political progress has been slow, Tensions have also increased in recent years with China threatening to use force to take the island back.