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John Xina: The Exploitable Meme

John Cena is one of the most popular professional wrestlers in the world he has won over 10 championships throughout his career. But did you know that he also has a Chinese alter ego? John Xina, also known as Jiang Xina or Zhong Xina, is an image macro of Cena Photoshopped to look like Chinese communist revolutionary Mao Zedong. The nickname “Cena” first appeared on Twitter in 2016, but it wasn’t until May 2021 that image macros associated with the name started popping up online. 

The reason for this sudden resurfacing is due to a viral video of Cena defending China’s military pressure for reunification with Taiwan and their OneChina Policy which has been framed by many people as controversial or softer sided than other Western nations’ positions towards Chinese rule over disputed territories like Tibet

History

john xina meme

The earliest known use of a John Xina image was posted by Twitter user @xlkjin on October 25th, 2016, but the image was not initially posted with the John Xina name attached. The image was later reblogged by a Chinese news site on December 8th, 2016.

The latest variation of the “John Cena as Mao” meme appears on Instagram after it resurfaces online due to a viral video about him defending China’s military pressure for reunification with Taiwan.

Our research

john xina as john cena

We analyzed 1,500 social media posts mentioning John Cena as “John Xina.” We eliminated 1,000 images and 10 imitation accounts without finding a similar screen name. We identified 2,000 images for which we were able to reliably attribute the screen name to John Cena. The presence of multiple versions of the same image all having the same screen name suggests that it is a Chinese internet meme.

We found 1,200 posts by Chinese fans using variations of the name “Jiang Xina” (or “Zhong Xina”) from May 30th through June 20th, 2021. All posts we found mentioning “Jiang Xina” were posted on Twitter or Instagram.

Sample usage

Some of the most popular variations on John Cena’s John Xina image are “John Cena as Chairman Mao” and “Mao Zedong vs. John Cena.” The image macros appear to reference the video that went viral on Twitter in May 2021 of an interview with Cena defending Chinese president Xi Jinping’s military pressure for reunification with Taiwan.

In the video, Cena said, “I think that China has done a tremendous job at integrating themselves into the world economy and allowing for freedom of information to be circulated in ways that it may not have been allowed in years past.” The interview also gave rise to many parody images.

Audience and origin

Our data shows that the John Xina nickname is primarily used on Twitter, but it also makes appearances on Instagram. Chinese fans post the image macros to mock John Cena’s patriotic image. Many of these posts are made sarcastically or ironically and have a negative tone. For example, Chinese fans use “John Cena as Chairman Mao” or “Mao Zedong vs. 

“john xina” parody the video in which he defends China by saying, “I think that China has done a tremendous job at integrating themselves into the world economy and allowing for freedom of information to be circulated in ways that it may not have been allowed in years past.

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