Problem: you have a story about officials inspecting a landscaping project, a picture of said project, and a picture of said officials, but not together.
Solution: time to go 'shopping!
The author is understandably incredulous that anyone would take this seriously, and to their credit it seems like some people in China figured it out fast enough. But that completely misses the point. The propaganda ministry isn't trying to convince hipsters, let alone foreign hipsters, of anything. They're trying to make sure the little old lady in the checkout line believes what they say. Now, think about it. I'm sure your grandma would figure this out in a heartbeat, but would all of her friends be able to do it?