Following his "pathetic" apology to China for referring to Taiwan as a nation during a promotional spot for his new film "F9," John Cena received a barrage of criticism from American Twitter users on Tuesday. Sen. Tom Cotton, a Republican, called Cena's apology "pathetic."

John Cena apologized for referring to Taiwan as a country during a promotional interview for "F9," the latest installment in the "Fast and Furious" franchise, earlier this month on Chinese social media platform Weibo. The Chinese, who consider Taiwan to be a rogue province within their territory, were furious at his blunder. However, many Chinese netizens were dissatisfied with Cena's gesture because he did not explicitly mention that Taiwan is a part of China in his statement, NY Post reported.

On Tuesday, WWE wrestler and movie star John Cena apologized to Chinese fans for referring to Taiwan as a country while promoting the latest Fast and Furious movie. For the video apology, Cena spoke in Mandarin, which he posted on Weibo, which is sometimes referred to as China's version of Twitter. Tony Lin, a Vice News producer, kindly translated the message with English subtitles for non-Mandarin speakers on his Twitter account not long after he posted his video.

  @Twitter

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John Cena said he loves and respect China and its people

The controversy erupted when Cena was on the red carpet to promote F9, the next installment in the Fast and Furious franchise, in which he stars. "Taiwan is the first country that can watch" the film, he said in Mandarin during an interview with Taiwanese broadcaster TVBS.

Cena apologized in a statement that quickly spread to other social media sites outside Weibo, saying, "I made a bad mistake. Now I have to say something really important: I love and respect China and the Chinese people," Newsweek reported.

Self-ruled Taiwan is considered a Chinese breakaway province by Beijing. In China, where nationalism is powerful, sovereignty and territory are significant concerns. Many Chinese people find it "offensive" to refer to Taiwan as a sovereign country, as Cena did during his interview with TVBS, according to The New York Times' Daniel Victor. Cena's comments sparked a massive backlash, especially on Weibo.

Cena is a well-known Chinese celebrity who has studied Mandarin for years and frequently uses Weibo. His fans there were disappointed by his choice of words, and some stayed angry even after he apologized since he never explicitly said that Taiwan is a part of China.

F9 was postponed for a year due to the pandemic, but it finally premiered this past weekend in eight foreign markets, including China and South Korea, and totaled $162 million in ticket sales. When the car-and-crime blockbuster hits American theaters on June 25, it will set a new record for the longest gap between a Hollywood film's foreign release and its domestic release. F9 was released early in China due to a ban on imported films in the country when theaters screen government-approved patriotic films.

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