Wrestling legend John Cena tapped out to China this week. In an interview promoting the newest “Fast & Furious” installment, Cena happened to refer to Taiwan as a country. This “slip-up” greatly offended the Chinese. So Cena apologized to China—in Mandarin. “I’m very sorry for my mistakes. Sorry. Sorry. I’m really sorry. You have to understand that I love and respect China and Chinese people,” he said in his bizarre response.
John Cena apologized in Chinese on Sina Weibo after calling Taiwan a country during an interview promoting Fast & Furious 9 pic.twitter.com/dzRKIYgEzL
— Joe Yizhou Xu (@JoeXu) May 24, 2021
The apology still didn’t sit well with Cena’s Chinese fans. “Please say in Chinese that Taiwan is part of China. Otherwise, we won’t accept it,” wrote one on the social media site Weibo.
“What you have said in the video is nonsense. You can’t take benefits from China, but in the meantime, do things to harm China’s interests,” wrote another. Both messages received hundreds of likes on the popular Chinese platform.
Cena also infuriated many Americans, particularly conservatives. Right-leaning commentators complain the actor showed a lack of spine and kowtowed to an evil dictatorship. They claim he should have stood up for Taiwan and condemned China for its many human rights abuses.
But no matter how many conservatives protest or how forcefully they denounce Cena’s capitulation, the actor will never apologize to them. The Chinese market matters far more to him than any conservatives among American moviegoers. He doesn’t have to worry about his movie getting pulled from red states, curtailed career prospects, or really much of anything due to conservative outrage.
But he does have to worry about Chinese outrage. If he didn’t apologize, he could have seen all of his movies pulled from the Chinese market and no future action movie would hire him. He wouldn’t want to be blacklisted from the biggest film market in the world.
That’s the market pull the Chinese have—American conservatives apparently have zero.
Granted, China does have a certain advantage over domestic audiences. Conservatives cannot compel our government to ban movies or erase distribution deals over insults. Entertainers know they’re not dealing with a liberal democracy when they appeal to China. They realize they can’t act the same way as they can in America and Europe.
But it’s not a state of affairs we need to condone nor accept. It’s especially with the disrespect entertainers show toward me in this country.
Just last month, Major League Baseball told Republicans to go to hell when it withdrew its All-Star Game from Georgia. The reason was to protest Georgia’s recent voter reform that would have safeguarded its elections from duplicitous practices. Fighting against voter fraud and making elections more secure should be a concern shared by all Americans. Unfortunately, only Republicans seem interested in it. The MLB’s protest sent a message to conservatives: we oppose your values and don’t worry about losing your business.
The MLB and every other sports league have shouted this message for a while now. They all turned themselves into propaganda machines in 2020, telling America it practiced “systemic racism” and boycotting games to protest justified shootings of armed black men. None of these leagues cared about how this message would be received by Americans who don’t believe they live in a racist country. Their opinion didn’t matter to athletes, team owners, and league execs.
The NFL did care for a brief period about its players kneeling for the anthem because it alienated conservative fans. But it has since apologized for that position and celebrated players who knelt for the Star-Spangled Banner. The NFL’s attempts to punish players who knelt for the flag is one of the few recent examples of a major entertainment franchise trying to please conservatives—and it was only temporary.
This is just speaking of the sports world. The world of film and television is much worse. Late-night comedy turned into humorless lectures on Democratic policy, awards shows served as anti-Trump hatefests, and TV shows encouraged viewers to punch Trump supporters. The ads in between shows celebrate Black Lives Matter and deliver sermons on America’s racism. There’s never an attempt to apologize or offer alternatives for conservative audiences. This is our culture and right-leaning Americans just have to sit through it.
Compare this to how the entire NBA had to grovel before China in 2019 for one manager tweeting in support of Hong Kong protesters. The teams and players knew they couldn’t upset the dragon if they wanted to continue doing business in the country.
It’s certainly infuriating to see cowardly displays like this, but the conservative response should not dwell on screaming in the wind at these apologies. We should instead ask why these actors and athletes don’t show us a similar level of respect. This level of disrespect justifies boycotts and complaints more than how they cater to China. We should elicit the same concern as the Chinese people rather than be treated as disposable customers.
We should boycott entertainers not for apologizing to China, but for trampling over our cherished beliefs and traditions with absolute contempt. Until conservatives are able to exact punishment on these figures, we can continue to see these open displays of scorn. That needs to change—ASAP.