There are sycophants that are bigger than others. Like those of John Cena to his Chinese fans. In a video posted on May 25 on Weibo, the equivalent of Twitter in China, the American wrestling star and heavy-duty film actor unboxes, in just over a minute, his mea culpa. While devoting his love to the communist country.
Facing the camera and looking exaggeratedly sorry, the guy lets go of his self-criticism, stuffed with superlatives: “Now I have to tell you something very, very, very, very, very important: I love and respect China and the Chinese people.”, he pleads in Mandarin. I’m really, really sorry for my mistake. “ He insists : “I’m really, really sorry for my mistake. I apologize, I am so sorry. “
The famous ” mistake “ ? Having dared to say, at the beginning of the month, that Taiwan was ” a country “ during a meeting with his Taiwanese fans. In full promotional tour of the last episode of the saga “Fast and Furious”, F9, in which he has a leading role, the American actor had told the Taiwanese channel TVBS than “Taiwan [serait] the first country to be able to see F9 “. Originally scheduled for May 19, the film has been rescheduled due to the current health situation on the island of 23 million inhabitants.
“Useful idiot of the Chinese diet”
This is how John Cena drew the wrath of the Chinese Web and its most nationalistic Internet users. In Beijing’s eyes, issues related to Taiwan are highly sensitive. For the Chinese regime, promoting the independence of Taiwan is crossing the Rubicon. Because since the arrival of the Communists to power in 1949, China considers the democratic island as a renegade province that will have to, one day or another, and by force if necessary, be recovered under its grip.
The moment chosen for the self-criticism, a bit Maoist, of John Cena, is not trivial. It comes a few days after the release, on May 21, of F9 in Chinese theaters. She liked it a lot at Global Times, the nationalist daily at the boot of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), calling the actor “Good example to follow for all Westerners”.
“He plays the role of the useful idiot of the Chinese regime, analyzes Emmanuel Lincot, associate researcher at Iris and specialist in Chinese cultural diplomacy. Here we can talk about sharp power, that is to say the capacity of China, without saying it too much or acting too much, to inhibit the adversary. “
But this ” mistake “ by John Cena did not prevent the conspicuous entry of F9 at the Chinese box office. Last weekend, the American blockbuster grossed $ 148 million. Already in 2017, the revenue in China of The Fate of the Furious, the previous episode, had surpassed those made in the United States. That’s more than $ 392 million, compared to $ 226 million, according to Box Office Mojo.
The same year, a report from the organization Pen America denounced Hollywood’s self-censorship to seduce the Chinese market. John Cena is not the only Hollywood protagonist to submit to such self-criticism. In 1998, a former Disney boss apologized to Chinese authorities after a film on the life of the Dalai Lama was banned in China.
“From its origins, Hollywood has based its economic model on exporting, explains Laurent Creton, specialist in film economics and professor at Sorbonne-Nouvelle University. Hollywood productions want to sell all over the world and do not want to deprive themselves of the world’s leading film market and its 1.4 billion Chinese, whose purchasing power has continued to grow. “
More generally, circles where money is flowing freely and for which large contracts are signed in China (fashion, high-level sport, etc.) no longer hesitate to conform to the narrative of communist propaganda. “An unhealthy interdependence has been created with China, deplores Emmanuel Lincot. The business dimension has taken over. “
Fortunately, there are counter-examples, such as Barcelona and France footballer Antoine Griezmann who, in December 2020, broke his contract with the Huawei company, suspected of participating in the Uyghur surveillance system.