Everybody knows by now about the notorious People's Daily photospread of Kim Jung-un as the sexiest man alive - now, sadly 404'd - which previously appeared in the Onion. Adam Minter has an interesting theory about why this happened here, involving Chinese state media's 'skinhua' tendencies:
The third, and final, bias is People’s Daily’s interest in sexy slideshows. On Sunday the paper posted a 52-image slideshow entitled “Attractive beauties at auto exhibitions” depicting, as the title suggests, models -- sometimes skimpily dressed -- lounging with cars (this was preceded, three days earlier, by “Sexy car models at 3rd Harbin Autumn Auto Exhibition”). No surprise, the sexy slideshows often descend into blatantly sexist agitprop, such as a now-notorious example, “‘Beautiful scenery’ at 18th CPC National Congress,” where the “beautiful scenery” turned out to be young women who worked at the all- important political event. Finally, there are the more prosaic, single-model examples (in which Kim Jong-Un is obviously working), such as Friday’s “Glamorous Li Xiaoran poses on beach.”
So the point isn't that the People's Daily was fooled by the Onion, though it might have been, but that the original was a handy means of providing cheap flattery of Kim Jong-un to be fed back in to Pyongyang leadership circles, thereby keeping Sino-North Korean relations on an even keel. I'd also like to believe that they were also doing it deliberately to take the piss out of the Kim dynasty.
What makes Minter's general analysis more credible is the the original Onion piece reflects fairly aaccurately both how North Korean state media reports on Kim Jong-un and how it reports on foreign reaction to the Kims. Do the world's workers, peasants, broad masses and progressive and peace loving forces think that Kim Jong-un is the sexiest man alive? Why, of course they do!