The American wrestling superstar and actor apologised to Chinese fans in Mandarin on Tuesday after making the comment on Taiwanese television TVBS earlier this month. China considers Taiwan its province and rejects any reference that the self-governed island is an independent state. However, Mr Cena’s apology did not go down well with people in the US.
Author and columnist Meghan McCain lashed out at the 44-year-old for making an apology to China.
She wrote on Twitter: “You absolutely spineless, chickensh*t, pathetic coward.”
Journalist Megyn Kelly also agreed as she added: “This is stomach turning.”
Political commentator echoed the “coward” sentiment as he tweeted: “If you are unwilling to say these things because it might hurt your bottom line, you are a pathetic coward.”
Former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo weighed in on the apology too as he wrote on Twitter: “On your bowing to the Chinese Communist Party… I don’t see you.”
The backlash came after Mr Cena’s video was played 2.4 million times on the Chinese-controlled social media site Weibo, with Chinese media quickly leaping on the apology too.
He said in his video: “Hi China, I’m John Cena.
“I’m in the middle of Fast and Furious 9 promotions. I’m doing a lot of interviews. I made a mistake in one of my interviews.
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“You must understand that I really love, really respect China and the Chinese people. My apologies. See you.”
The Fast and Furious 9 movie has been a huge box office hit in mainland China since it opened on May 21.
Over the last weekend along, China accounted for $135 million of the movie’s $162 million in revenue, according to US entertainment publication Variety.
The US’s relationship with China turned sour while Donald Trump was President, with him even sending top state officials to Taipei, the capital of Taiwan, in September 2020.
Joe Biden’s administration was quickly tested when Beijing sent warplanes over Taiwan in what was seen as a test of America’s loyalty.
However, the state department replied by saying its support of Taiwan was “rock solid”.
Mr Cena has not mentioned his apology or the controversy on Twitter.
However, yesterday morning he cryptically tweeted: “Being discouraged by failure is normal, being detained by failure can be toxic. Learn, rise, grow. Never give up.”
Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry declined to comment.