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Video of officials signing bilateral agreement falsely shared as ‘Indonesia paying off debts to China’

In World
April 19, 2024

A video of Indonesia and China’s foreign ministers signing a bilateral cooperation agreement in October 2023 has resurfaced in false social media posts praising Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo for purportedly paying off all the country’s debts to China in the final months of his presidency. According to debt statistics released by Indonesian financial authorities in March 2024, Jakarta’s debts to Beijing have increased during Jokowi’s tenure and currently stands at more than $21 billion.

“Praise be to God the process of the signing of proof of Indonesia’s full debt payment to China,” read Indonesian-language sticker text on this clip, posted on video-sharing platform SnackVideo on April 6, 2024.

The 28-second video, which has been viewed more than 56,000 times, shows Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi and her Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, signing documents.

“This is the process of the signing of proof of Indonesia’s full debt payment to China. This is really extraordinary. At the end of Mr Jokowi’s term, he is doing unexpected things, guys,” a male narrator said in the video, referring to Indonesian President Joko Widodo by his nickname.

The post’s caption repeats the claim.

<span>Screenshot of the false post, taken on April 19, 2024</span>” data-src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/2ZB2.cj9Pw9PczBR5sZr.A–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTExNzk-/https://media.zenfs.com/en/afp_factcheck_us_713/2efe199599d288a92c3b42c6dd37b34c”><noscript><img alt=Screenshot of the false post, taken on April 19, 2024” src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/2ZB2.cj9Pw9PczBR5sZr.A–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTExNzk-/https://media.zenfs.com/en/afp_factcheck_us_713/2efe199599d288a92c3b42c6dd37b34c” class=”caas-img”>

Screenshot of the false post, taken on April 19, 2024

The clip racked up more than 378,000 views after it was shared elsewhere on SnackVideo, as well as on TikTok here, herehere and here.

Screenshots from the video were also shared on TikTok here, garnering more than eight million views before the post was removed.

The false posts largely circulated among users who appear to be supporters of outgoing President Jokowi, who concludes his term in October 2024.

During Jokowi’s presidency, Beijing has helped Jakarta  finance its first high-speed railway and develop its nickel industry under the Belt and Road initiative — a decade-old programme of China-backed infrastructure projects.

Indonesia has become the largest recipent of China’s Belt and Road Initiative in Southeast Asia (archived links here and here).

However, the country has not paid off its debts to Beijing — the video shows officials signing bilateral agreements in October 2023.

Indonesia’s debt to China has ballooned from nearly $7.87 billion in 2014 — the year Jokowi was elected president — to $21.02 billion in 2024, according to the latest report from the Indonesian central bank and finance ministry published in March 2024 (archived link).

Jokowi’s visit to Beijing

A reverse image search on Google, followed by a keyword search on YouTube, found the clip used in the false posts corresponds to the 3:01 mark of a longer video uploaded by the official channel of the Indonesian Presidential Secretariat on October 17, 2023 (archived link).

The video’s title states it shows Chinese President Xi Jinping’s official ceremony to welcome Jokowi during his state visit to Beijing on October 17, 2023.

The video also shows a meeting between the two leaders, attended by several Indonesian ministers, including Retno, Trade Minister Zulkifli Hasan and Minister of State-Owned Enterprise Erick Thohir, as well as top Chinese officials such as Wang Yi, the country’s state planner head Zheng Shanjie and Commerce Minister Wang Wentao.

In the original video, as Retno and Wang Yi are about to sign documents, a male voice can be heard announcing in Indonesian: “They will sign an MoU on dialogue between foreign affairs ministers and defence ministers.”

Below are screenshot comparisons of the clip in the false post (left) and the original video from the Indonesian Presidential Secretariat (right):

<span>Screenshot comparisons of the clip in the false post (left) and the original video from the Indonesian Presidential Secretariat (right)</span>” data-src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/1IhkDamoFGfOVzX1c9vqNg–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTY1Mw–/https://media.zenfs.com/en/afp_factcheck_us_713/29e5b67a4a78bf7bcaae01017b683c27″><noscript><img alt=Screenshot comparisons of the clip in the false post (left) and the original video from the Indonesian Presidential Secretariat (right)” src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/1IhkDamoFGfOVzX1c9vqNg–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTY1Mw–/https://media.zenfs.com/en/afp_factcheck_us_713/29e5b67a4a78bf7bcaae01017b683c27″ class=”caas-img”>

Screenshot comparisons of the clip in the false post (left) and the original video from the Indonesian Presidential Secretariat (right)

On the same day, the Indonesian Cabinet Secretariat published a press release about the meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing (archived link).

It said that Xi and Jokowi witnessed the signing of 10 memorandums of understanding (MoUs), ranging from animal quarantine, health care and medicine to investment and defence.

China’s state news agency Xinhua also published a report on the meeting between the two leaders on October 17, 2023, which also noted they witnessed the signing of the MoUs (archived link).

Neither the video nor the official news releases mention Indonesia paying off its debts to China.

There are no credible reports that Indonesia has paid off its debt to China.

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