Cena was being interviewed on Taiwanese TV to promote F9, the new Fast & Furious movie
He said, in Mandarin: 'Taiwan is the first country that can watch F9.'
Chinese fans were irate that he referred to Taiwan as a country, and not part of China
They flooded Weibo - where Cena has 600,000 followers - with complaints
Taiwan sees itself as an autonomous democracy and nation but China considers it a Chinese territory that they will reclaim
Cena found himself at the heart of the complex issue and issued an apology, on Weibo, in Mandarin
He groveled: 'I love and respect China and Chinese people. I'm very, very sorry about my mistake.'
It is the latest example of Hollywood and big business bowing to China for fear of retaliation
Fast & Furious 9 smashed through the box office during its May 21 release in China last weekend, raking in $148 million