If you keep up with the goings-on of the internet, you’ll no doubt have heard about John Cena’s transformation from a modern Chuck Norris into a groveling mess at the feet of communists. Last year, as part of an interview promoting Fast & Furious 9, he said (in Mandarin) that Taiwan would be the first country to see the film.1 China does not officially recognize Taiwan as an independent country, but as a part of China itself. Realizing his mistake in the eyes of Chinese audiences, Cena then posted a video on the social media platform Weibo to apologize. What ensued was a flurry of articles and a blizzard of memes.
One of America’s poster boys for masculinity and success had kowtowed to communist lies. What happened? If it wasn’t obvious already, the answer is money. It usually is. Many American movies make significant profits in China, but the Fast & Furious series is more popular than ever. Fast & Furious 9 ended up making over $40 million more in China than America. Whether he was approached by Universal, a Chinese official, or nobody at all, Cena knew his best chance to continue making the big bucks in Hollywood was to smooth things over and keep his largest source of income happy.
Money Money Money
This has become a growing trend. From the NBA to Tiktok celebrities, Americans are bending over backwards to make money off the Chinese market. They’re all too willing to step in line for a slice of the pie. But why is this? And what can be done about it?
In a capitalist economy, there’s a profit motive for work. This is a good thing. It harnesses humanity’s selfish desires to innovate and create value for society. Check out this post for more on that topic. But what happens when there’s money to be made overseas? This complicates things. All of the sudden, you’re faced with an interconnected global market instead of one isolated in America. You can save money by outsourcing labor to areas of the world where people will gladly work for less. You have to consider foreign policy and what’s allowed to be shipped across the borders of each nation. And you can’t ignore that more people out there might want to buy what you’re selling.
Part of a businessman’s job is to find out who wants his product. Only then will his effort be worthwhile. Unfortunately, one of the largest markets in the world just so happens to be under strict communist rule. China is overrun with state surveillance, policy indifferent to human rights, and all kinds of overbearing authoritarianism. Most of the population is hopelessly indoctrinated by the government and ignorant of their lack of rights. How do you market to a nation like that?
As it turns out, the only way to get to the Chinese people is by satisfying the Chinese government first. If you don’t, your product is subject to censorship or outright rejection. You lose out on all that potential profit. Businessmen don’t want that, so they compromise and tailor their product until it passes under the scrutiny of the state. It only makes sense when your goal is profit.
What, if anything, can be done about this? Is it even a problem? In one sense, it is. We have an instinctual reaction whenever we see someone obviously forgoing their commitment to character for the sake of cold hard cash. We don’t like it when people “sell out.” Why is this? Because deep down, nearly everyone recognizes the value of integrity. We know there are truths we cannot abandon, history that must be respected, and principles we ought to live by.
Seeing a person we trust cast aside their integrity, ignore truth, deny history, and reveal a lack of principles is like being stabbed in the back. It feels wrong. They were supposed to stick to their guns. We trusted them and they’re now using and abusing our trust so they can maintain a high standard of living. It seems so hollow and soulless.
Yet that’s exactly what John Cena did. He repeated lies and bended the knee to a horrible government just to win over the people of China. Was it worth it? Here lies the crucial detail. Even with a global economy, the oppression of the Chinese government, and businessmen all too eager to appeal to their corruption, one bastion of freedom remains: the public opinion.
Don’t get me wrong. I hate cancel culture. It’s a toxic machine of insane witch-hunting perpetuated by misinformation and exploited for political gain by social media companies. But ignoring that for just a moment, we have to consider the real-world implications of catering to a communist state. Sure, you get to share in the profits of the Chinese market, but at what cost? John Cena’s reputation has taken a sharp nosedive in America since last year. And remember, his actions weren’t rumor or hearsay. Everything about it was public. It was just announced that he would be starring in a new Looney Tunes movie, and already I’ve seen many people bring up his Fast & Furious incident.
This is what gives me hope. As long as we still have free markets where people have a say in who they give their business, businessmen will be forced to consider them in the products they create. Celebrities will have to be careful how they present themselves. If they make the choice to cater to communism, leaving truth and justice behind, they’ll eventually lose the respect and the money of free nations.
I know that sounds idealistic. In reality, there are plenty of Americans willing to put up with morally bankrupt actors so they can laugh at their favorite comedies in willfully ignorant bliss. But even this is not the end of the world. After all, capitalism isn’t supposed to measure and reward morality. Putting that kind of responsibility on human leaders would be disastrous. Instead, it’s supposed to balance between selfish greed and harmful corruption by letting the people choose who they support. Nobody is immune to the court of public opinion.
So if everything is basically operating as usual, what can we do? Well, firstly, we can boycott businesses we disagree with. Vote with your wallet. In enough numbers, angry laymen have the power to radically alter the market. The less we put up with people like Cena, the less we’ll see of them. But even more importantly, pay attention to your government. Watch the ballot for legislation infringing on free speech and then vote against it when it rears its ugly head. Refuse to believe everything your TV tells you. Look into what your government is doing so you can be an informed citizen. Arming yourself with the truth is the only way to see corruption coming. Don’t let America become the next China.
Leave a comment if you have thoughts about all this. Enter your email below if you want to be notified when my next post goes live. Thanks for reading. Godspeed.
- Daniel Van Boom, “John Cena’s China apology: What you need to know,” CNET, May 26, 2021, https://www.cnet.com/news/john-cenas-apology-to-china-everything-you-need-to-know/