American Twitter users pounced on John Cena on Tuesday. This is following his apology to China for referring to Taiwan as a country. The American professional wrestler made the statement earlier this month during a promotional video for his new film “F9”. The movie is the latest instalment for the “Fast and Furious” franchise.
Cena adopted an uncharacteristically apologetic tone in a 68-second clip posted to Weibo, a Chinese social media network, as he repeatedly apologized to his 600,000 followers.
“I made a mistake,” he said in Mandarin, “I’m so, so sorry for my mistake. I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m very sorry. You have to understand I love and respect China and Chinese people. I’m sorry.”
However, many Chinese netizens were dissatisfied with the gesture because Cena did not say that Taiwan is a part of China in his speech.
Joe Walsh, an American politician, dubbed John Cena’s apology to China “pathetic” on Twitter.
“Actually, it’s better to post a video and directly say that Taiwan is a part of China. What’s the point of apologizing?,” posted another user.
“Please say ‘Taiwan is part of China’ in Chinese, otherwise we will not accept,” demanded another commenter.
Others recalled Cena’s background as a champion professional wrestler and voiced displeasure with his kowtowing to a US competitor.
THE ISSUE BETWEEN CHINA AND TAIWAN
This story begins in the 1920s. Between 1927 and 1949, China saw a severe civil war, with a World War II-sized lull in between. It was eventually won by the Chinese Communist Party, led by Mao Zedong, which is still in power today: Xi Jinping serves as both China’s president and the CCP’s general secretary.
The Nationals, led by Chiang Kai-shek, were on the other side of the fight. Although they lost the battle, they did not lose the war.
Faced with defeat, Chiang Kai-shek, the Nationalist leadership, and over a million refugees fled to Taiwan, which was captured from Japan during World War II and given to the Nationalists by the Allied powers. There has never been an armistice or a peace treaty signed.
Taiwan’s formal name is The Republic of China (as opposed to The People’s Republic of China), and Chiang Kai-shek hoped to recover the mainland until his death. Following his death in 1976, democracy blossomed in Taiwan, yet opinions toward the mainland remain divisive.
China, for its part, has never acknowledged Taiwan as a sovereign state. It has consistently advocated for a “one nation, two systems” deal in which Taiwan would technically become a part of China while retaining significant autonomy.
That was the same rhetoric used to entice Hong Kong to return to the mainland before the CCP took steps to undermine that country’s democracy (which is a whole other thing).
China takes this matter very seriously. Taiwan has been barred from attending the World Health Organization’s World Health Assembly, and multinational airlines and hotel chains have been instructed not to refer to Taiwan as a country. Some military leaders have warned that a Chinese invasion of Taiwan is quite likely.
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