Satirical AI-altered video of Xi Jinping speaking English misleads social media users

  • Published on November 27, 2023 at 08:51
  • 4 min read
  • By AFP Hong Kong

An AI-altered video appearing to show Chinese President Xi Jinping giving a speech in English during a visit to the United States has misled social media users into believing it is genuine. The video was created to mock the Chinese leader, however, who is not known to speak publicly in the language.

"Xi Jinping's English speech in San Francisco," reads a Chinese-language caption with the video posted to Facebook on November 20, 2023.

The one-minute clip shows Xi in front of a blue backdrop.

"If the other party is regarded as the primary competitor, the most significant geopolitical challenge, and the threat that is constantly pressing, it will inevitably lead to wrong policies, wrong actions and wrong results," the Chinese president appears to say.

"China is willing to be a partner and friend with the United States. The fundamental principles for managing China-US relations are mutual respect, peaceful coexistence, and win-win cooperation.

"China does not read books from the United States, does not interfere in the internal affairs of America and has no intention of challenging or replacing the United States," the speech continues.

"China is happy to see a confident, open and prosperous America. Likewise, the US should avoid reading Chinese books, should refrain from interfering in China's internal affairs and should embrace a peaceful, stable and prosperous China."


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A screenshot of the Facebook post, captured November 24, 2023

The video circulated in the days after Xi ended a whirlwind US trip on November 17 -- his first time in the country in six years -- where he met US President Joe Biden and attended the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in San Francisco.

Biden and Xi agreed at their summit in California to rejuvenate a relationship that has struggled in recent years and to bolster direct communication between the two men.

The clip of Xi was also shared repeatedly on TikTok, as well as hundreds of times with captions in other languages such as English and Thai that presented it as genuine footage.

"When Xi Jinping gave a speech in fluent English professional translators are preparing to lose their jobs!" said one user.

"This is the first time I've heard Xi Jinping's English! So he has a very British accent?!" said another.

But AFP found the video has been altered using artificial intelligence. Xi's original speech -- given at a dinner in San Francisco -- was in Mandarin.

AFP did not find any evidence that Xi has ever given a public address in English.

AI-generated satire

Keyword searches on Google and X -- formerly known as Twitter -- led to a longer version of the same video posted to YouTube on November 18, 2023 by an account that shares videos mocking the Chinese president (archived link).

This clip is titled "Xi Jinping's English Speech in San Francisco, USA, 11/15/2023 [AI]". Its description also includes the hashtag "AI".

Further keyword searches led to a video of Xi's genuine speech uploaded to X by BBC Chinese on November 16, 2023.

It contains Chinese subtitles and a title card for the president that are identical to those in the AI video, but Xi is speaking Mandarin.

Below are screenshot comparisons between the video in the misleading posts (left) and the BBC Chinese footage (right):


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Screenshot comparisons between the video in the misleading posts (left) and the BBC Chinese footage (right)

A complete video of Xi's speech was released on November 17 on YouTube by the National Committee on US-China Relations, which co-hosted the dinner to welcome Xi (archived link).

The Chinese president only speaks Mandarin throughout his address.

Inaccuracies

AFP found the AI video uses an inaccurate English translation of Xi's speech. In some parts, the audio does not match up with the shape of his mouth.

For example, when Xi discusses possible outcomes of the United States and China viewing each other as threats, the AI video shows him saying "it will inevitably lead to wrong policies, wrong actions and wrong results".

But according to an official translation, published by China's state-run Xinhua News Agency, Xi says it will "only lead to misinformed policy-making, misguided actions, and unwanted results" (archived link).

The AI video also mistakenly translates a section as "China does not read books from the United States", and "likewise, the US should avoid reading Chinese books".

It appears to confuse the Chinese phrase "賭輸", pronounced "dǔ shū" -- meaning to lose a bet -- with "讀書", or "dú shū", meaning to read books.

According to the official transcript, Xi actually says "China never bets against the United States", and "likewise, the United States should not bet against China".

AFP has previously debunked social media posts that shared another AI-manipulated video appearing to show Indonesian President Joko Widodo giving a speech in Mandarin.

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