Taiwan stokes resentment, ‘F9’ star John Cena loves China

"F9" isn't the first Western film to suffer political opposition in China. Last year, Sony (SNE) cancelled the fantasy action film "Monster Hunter" from theatres in the United States just days after its premiere due to backlash on social media over a script pun that some viewers claimed was racist.

After dubbing Taiwan a “country” during an interview that sparked outrage among fans in Hollywood’s most important international market, “F9” star John Cena has expressed his appreciation for the country.

The controversy erupted after Cena — who plays Dom Toretto’s brother in the ninth instalment of the blockbuster “Fast & Furious” movie — gave a promotional interview to Taiwanese broadcaster TVBS. “Taiwan is the first place that can watch F9,” Cena said in Mandarin to the broadcaster.

The civil war between China and Taiwan

Despite the fact that the two sides have been controlled separately since the end of a civil war over 70 years ago, China claims Taiwan as its sovereign territory. Beijing considers any mention of Taiwan’s independence to be a violation of its “red line,” and has been increasingly attempting to police speech on the subject around the world with its economic might.

Cena apologized on Weibo, China’s popular Twitter-like social media website, on Tuesday. Cena, speaking in Mandarin for the second time, did not mention Taiwan by name or go into depth about the event, but he did explain that he “did a lot of interviews” and “made a mistake.”

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“I apologize for my error,” Cena stated. I must declare now that it is critical that I love and respect China and the Chinese people even more. The incident demonstrates how conscientious business, and Hollywood in particular, has grown about political sensitivities in China, the world’s second-largest economy and box office.

The “Fast & Furious” franchise has a long history of being a huge hit with Chinese moviegoers. Over the weekend in China, “F9” grossed approximately $136 million, making it the highest opening weekend for a Hollywood picture during the pandemic. John Cena has a large following in China, with over 600,000 followers on Weibo.

He’s been learning Chinese for a long time and frequently makes videos on the platform in which he speaks the language while promoting movies.

China pursues the country’s political interests

Beijing frequently regulates how international brands discuss China or any of its political interests. For example, in 2018, the Chinese government ordered that American Airlines (AAL), Delta (DAL), and United (UAL) adjust how they referred to Taiwan or face sanctions in China, one of the world’s largest air travel markets.

Marriott’s website and app were also restricted for a week that year when the hotel chain identified Tibet, Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan as different “countries” in its emails and app.

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“F9” isn’t the first Western film to suffer political opposition in China. Last year, Sony (SNE) cancelled the fantasy action film “Monster Hunter” from theatres in the United States just days after its premiere due to backlash on social media over a script pun that some viewers claimed was racist.

In the aftermath of multiple scandals including pro-democracy rallies in Hong Kong and alleged human rights violations in China’s Xinjiang region, Disney’s (DIS) “Mulan” struggled in the country. Some Chinese critics panned the film, with the state-run Global Times claiming that “Mulan” incorporated Japanese “ninja gestures” and Chinese stereotypes after the teaser was released in 2019.

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