At least as far as I've seen, this is roughly the same general alarmist, sensational tone that you'll see in NYT's articles about the (very real) dangers of tech in the West.
> Should I ignore manipulative writing
Hard to, these days. Most news is manipulative, most news is slanted. We're all kind of stuck trying to extract facts from the morass of spin, and form our worldviews based on that. And of course it's fine to point out manipulation as you see it -- I apologize for calling that despicable.
But: reread that sentence you quoted. It's not talking about the "mundane event" of checking an app in the morning. It's telling you about the noteworthy trend of a state-run media in a fascist country celebrating such mundane habits. The NYT is calling out "stilted language" and "manipulative writing" as it were, albeit indirectly and without direct citation or translation, so it's the NYT's word against the People's Daily's. Whom do you trust more? (I'm as disappointed as the next guy in the NYT these past few years, but I really hope your answer to this question isn't a false equivalency).
Your claim was that the NYT was reporting on mundane events. In fact, the New York Times in that sentence is reporting on how the Chinese media manipulates and guilts the public by normalizing & praising extreme usage. Perhaps "manipulative" is a little strong, but it is indisputably an advertisement/endorsement, and all advertising involves some degree of scripting/manipulation.
The "whom do you trust more" is relevant only because the NYT did not quote from specific articles or broadcasts, so we're stuck trusting their synopsis. (And, as you've been saying, filtering out / correcting for their habitual biases).
And -- I wouldn't sign onto your strawman suggestion that one should ignore bias if the targets deserve it. The current US president deserves far worse than stilted reporting, but that doesn't stop me from being peeved at the media for throwing out their duty to truth whenever there's any slight chance to tear him down. My visceral reaction is to how you turn around the article with your initial "How many Americans...". This feels like deflecting the issue with a false comparison.
If you’re saying that they’re just repeating the People’s Daily in an attempt to show that China is manipulating people with weird language for mundane things, I think that’s way too subtle to belong in ostensibly objective reporting without something explicitly calling that out. I also don’t trust the translation to accurately portray the character of the original. It’s extremely common for English media to use stilted translations of mundane Chinese phrases (and I’m sure this happens with other languages too) in order to portray something as exotic or weird. See the recent “Breed Ready” nonsense for an example. That bad translation originated with the programmers, but none of the reporting mentioned that it was in fact a really bad translation of a fairly mundane term.
> bizarre language
Again, I contend that this is how NYT typically talks about all countries' social media these days, but this is of course my subjective impression.
> Too subtle a point
Point conceded, you're right. I was a little too eager to turn your own verbiage around on you.
The "BreedReady" translation is really bad, I agree. Hadn't seen that. What's the original hanzi? Like, if you're reporting on a country, you should know how its compound words are formed. But it's the nature of the 140-character dystopia that the most shocking translation is the one that goes viral.