Just months after Kim Jong-un was satirised as "the sexiest man alive" and barely a fortnight after economist Paul Krugman was mischeviously rumoured to be bankrupt, Chinese state media have been duped again.
This time, a fake report by western parodists was probably not to blame.
Xinhua was fooled on Tuesday by a fake Time magazine cover circulating online of Wu Renbao, the late former party secretary of Jiangsu’s Huaxi Village, who died of lung cancer on Monday night at age 85 (read more about the man here).
The news agency broke news of Wu’s death on Sina Weibo along with a photo of the cover. It praised Wu for his achievements in transforming Huaxi and how he once graced a 2005 cover of Time.
But as astute netizens on weibo were quick to point out, the cover was really a photoshop job of a January 2006 Time cover featuring disgraced American lobbyist Jack Abramoff with cover line “The man who bought Washington”.
Unfortunately, this was not before Qinghai-based daily News News ran a Wu story in its Tuesday paper accompanied with a large photo of the fake cover, China blog Danwei reported.
What was most embarrassing for Xinhua, News News, Guangzhou Daily and even China Daily, amongst the many media outlets who ran the fake image, was the blatantly obvious fake cover line which any copy editor with a beginner’s grasp of English would have picked up.
It read: “The man who men of the moment” followed by Wu Renbao’s name in Chinese characters and a description about Jack Abramoff.
Some netizens joked this was not all bad. “Let’s take the optimist’s view here - there’s media oversight now, but journalism is getting better in China. Just a few years ago, we would have never doubted whether the photo was genuine,” a weibo user said.