John Cena apologizes profusely to Chinese fans for referring to Taiwan as a country

(Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP, File)

The single most humiliating self-abasement by an American celebrity to Chinese prejudices that I’ve ever seen.

As bad as the NBA’s kowtowing to China was after Daryl Morey expressed solidarity with Hong Kong, at least LeBron James didn’t cut a video in Mandarin groveling over it.

That should be China’s next demand of American entertainers, actually: Learn Mandarin and speak it exclusively while visiting. Make them prove how far they’re willing to go to be cucks for China.

You don’t think they’d do it? Anything for a buck:

A few weeks ago, while promoting “Fast & Furious 9,” Cena told a Taiwanese interviewer offhandedly that Taiwan would be “the first country to watch the film.” Acknowledging Taiwanese independence is a major no-no in China, the sort of thing that might imperil the film’s release on the mainland, jeopardizing hundreds of millions of dollars in box office. Either Cena took it upon himself to walk it back or the suits at Universal told him he’d better hop to it if he wants to work again in Hollywood because he’s all but begging for forgiveness in the clip above. The South China Morning Post translates:

“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. Everyone was asking me if I could use Chinese – [movie] staff gave me a lot of information, so there was a lot of interviews and information,” said Cena, who started learning Mandarin to help his wrestling promotion’s integration in China. He has since gone viral many times for his enthusiastic Mandarin-speaking abilities.

“I made one mistake. I have to say something very, very, very important now. I love and respect China and Chinese people. I’m very, very sorry about my mistake. I apologise, I apologise, I’m very sorry. You must understand that I really love, really respect China and the Chinese people. My apologies. See you.”

Naturally, the apology isn’t good enough for some Chinese fans. “Please say in Chinese that Taiwan is part of China. Otherwise, we won’t accept it,” one person replied to the video, per the SCMP. As for how Cena came to know Mandarin, apparently he learned it a few years ago as a WWE star “to get our global company to be a true global company.” Which makes me think maybe no one had to lean on him to put out this video. He’s invested enough in making a buck off of China to have learned a difficult second language as an adult. He’s not about to let a little thing like Taiwanese independence cost him access to that market now.

I wonder how proficient in the language he is. Can he say “Uighurs live happy and free in glorious Xinjiang resettlement communities”?

Maybe we’ll find out.

Cena seems to have an interesting sense of what moral lines he will and won’t tolerate a national government crossing when choosing whether to make money there. A few years ago ESPN reported that he had quietly dropped out of a WWE event in Saudi Arabia amid the international uproar over Jamal Khashoggi’s murder. But he had appeared at another event in the Kingdom months before, despite its long history of human rights abuses. Maybe to him it’s a pure financial calculation all the way around: Doing a Saudi event at an unusual moment when Americans were exercised about a Saudi crime might have alienated some fans in the U.S., causing him to skip it, but doing a similar event during a normal period when Americans aren’t paying attention to international crimes is no problem. That would explain his willingness to grovel to China too. Americans just don’t care about Hong Kong or Xinjiang or Taiwan, so why shouldn’t Cena say what he needs to say to remain in China’s good graces?

Until Americans are prepared to boycott people like this for bowing and scraping to totalitarian killers, threatening his domestic bottom line, the abasement before China will continue. Western media could and should shame him for it, at least:

Can Cena be shamed? “The scariest part is that John Cena had to know he’d get caught out in the U.S. market making this hostage video, and that he figured it was still worth it. He knows where his bread is buttered,” wrote Dan Foster. That’s correct, and he’s also correct to call it a hostage video. In this case a film and its Chinese box office are being held hostage, not a person, but Cena’s paying a ransom all the same. Or, if you prefer Derek Thompson’s analogy, he’s paying a “values tariff.” Instead of Cena and Universal forking over dollars to gain access to China’s market, they’re forking over their commitment to western values. If conceding China’s dominion over a liberal democracy like Taiwan is what it costs to get Chinese moviegoers to buy tickets, they’ll pay that tax.

Exit question via Dave Burge: How’s the great American project of liberalizing China by normalizing trade with them going? Whose culture is assimilating whose?