Written by 06:25 World

In China, Deepfakes of ‘Russian’ Women Point to ‘Nationalistic Sexism’

The woman declares, in Mandarin inflected with a slight accent, that Chinese men should marry “us Russian women.” In other videos on the Chinese short video platform Douyin, she describes how much she loves Chinese food, and hawks salt and soap from her country. “Russian people don’t trick Chinese people,” she promises.

But her lip movements don’t quite match the audio of the videos, which were posted recently to an account using the name “Ladina.” That is because it is footage of Shadé Zahrai, an Australian career strategist with more than 1.7 million TikTok followers, that has been modified using artificial intelligence. Someone dubbed Ms. Zahrai’s video clips with a voice speaking Mandarin Chinese to make it seem that she was peddling Russian products.

Welcome to a flourishing genre on Chinese social media: A.I.-manipulated videos that use young, purportedly Russian, women to rally support for China-Russia ties, stoke patriotic fervor or make money — and sometimes all three at once.

It is unclear who is behind many of the videos, but most eventually direct viewers to a product link, suggesting that the primary aim is commercial. And the main target audience seems to be nationalist Chinese men.

The videos are often labeled with hash tags such as “Russian wife” and “Russian beauty.” The women featured describe how accomplished Chinese men are, or plead to be rescued by them from poverty or their own less idyllic country.

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Last modified: 21 May 2024
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