John Cena has found himself in hot water after referring to Taiwan as a country, and even his subsequent apology has sparked additional backlash.

During a recent interview with Taiwanese broadcaster TVBS to promote "Fast and Furious 9," Cena told the presenter that Taiwan would be the first "country" to be able to watch the latest instalment of the franchise. This led to a controversy in China, which considers self-governed Taiwan a part of its territory.

Following the criticism, Cena apologised to China in fluent Mandarin, the most widely spoken form of Chinese. He has been learning the language for several years, and previously said his Mandarin skills are "remedial."

Taking on Chinese social media site Weibo, where he has more than 600,000 followers, the actor said he "made one mistake" but "loves and respects China and Chinese people."

"I'm very, very sorry about my mistake. I apologise, I apologise, I'm very sorry," he said in the video message shared on Tuesday, reports the Mirror.

Though most of his fans in China accepted his apology, some argued they need him to say "Taiwan is part of China." Meanwhile, he also became the target of criticism on Twitter, where his apology was labelled "pathetic."

"Good morning from a beautiful country, Taiwan to everyone except John Cena!" wrote a Twitter user from the island state alongside a picture of mountains. In the United States, right-wing politicians ranging from Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton to conservative firebrand Erick Erickson blasted the apology.

"@JohnCena is owned by the Chinese Communist Party," wrote Republican Andy Biggs, while Tom Cotton simply wrote, "Pathetic."

John Cena is China's Handmaiden.

— Erick Erickson (@EWErickson) May 25, 2021

The 17-time WWE professional wrestling champion is not the first celebrity to have angered the Chinese by referring to Taiwan as an independent state, a suggestion that is strongly opposed by Beijing. Netflix drama "Girl from Nowhere" sparked criticism in the country last week by using the flags of Taiwan and Hong Kong in a Facebook post thanking viewers for the series' popularity in local languages.

Meanwhile, foreign retailers like H&M, Adidas, and Nike lost a huge part of their consumer base in China earlier this year after they said they wouldn't acquire cotton and other raw materials from Xinjiang due to reports of forced labour and other human rights abuses in the region. Previously in 2019, a number of fashion firms including Calvin Klein, Coach, and Givenchy had to apologise for implying that Taiwan and Hong Kong are separate from China on their websites and T-shirts.

John Cena
John Cena at 2015 ESPY Awards Getty