First it was a war of words with Australia, now a media organisation in China has taken aim at New Zealand and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
The Global Times, which is often viewed as a mouthpiece for the Chinese Communist Party, has suggested New Zealand is "like bleating sheep" in backing Australia after a Beijing official posted a doctored image of an Aussie soldier harming an Afghani child, news.com.au reported.
It also suggested Ardern was effectively coerced into supporting Australia.
On Tuesday, Ardern voiced the Government's concerns with the Chinese authorities over the tweet sent out by Beijing's Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian.
The image, which was computer generated, came after the Brereton Report alleged Australia soldiers committed war crimes in Afghanistan.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the tweet was "repugnant" and has demanded an apology.
Ardern said New Zealand supported Canberra's position.
"This is an image that wasn't factual. It wasn't correct. And so in keeping with our principled position where images like that are used, we will raise those concerns and we'll do it directly," she said on Tuesday.
Arden's criticism was notably more muted than that from Morrison.
In reply, the Global Times published an editorial denouncing New Zealand, claiming "Kiwis bleat like Aussie sheep but don't condemn Afghan killings".
Echoing comments by China's Foreign Ministry, the piece conceded the image in the tweet was fake but justified it by saying it was "based" on allegations of incidents involving Australian soldiers.
"The consecutive moves of Canberra and Wellington to describe the cartoon as 'false' or 'unfactual' are actually trying to shift people's attention away from Australian troops' brutality against Afghan civilians," it said.
The article claimed Ardern was effectively forced into making the statement due to the closeness of transtasman relations.
"Arden's statement has nothing to do with being wise or unwise; it is something she has to say."
Several other countries have also backed Australia, including the United States.
The incoming national security adviser in the Joe Biden Administration, Jake Sullivan, praised Australia today.
"The Australian people have made great sacrifices to protect freedom and democracy around the world," he tweeted.
"As we have for a century, America will stand shoulder to shoulder with our ally Australia and rally fellow democracies to advance our shared security, prosperity and values."
The Global Times noted the "restraint" in Arden's language, but criticised her for a "double standard", news.com.au reported.
"Ardern has demonstrated that New Zealand will not stop playing double-standard tricks the West uses so often. This is also part of the so-called Western values — the freedom to be hypocrites."
The piece came close to accusing Ardern of racism, saying, "Western politicians … do not accept the idea that other races are on an equal footing with them."
China and Australia have been involved in an escalating trade war. New Zealand has yet to face trade difficulties.
The editorial could be seen as a warning shot to New Zealand that more criticism could be to come.
On Tuesday, the Global Times called Australia "evil" and said Morrison's demand for an apology was "shameless".
It warned Australian warships shouldn't approach China's coastal waters or Australia's Navy will "swallow the bitter pills".
It also claimed China meant no ill will to anyone.
On Thursday, the Global Times published a new cartoon criticising Australia.
The latest offering features an Australian Defence Force member posing for a camera while grinning and holding a sign bearing the words "human rights" – while standing on a covered, bloodied body which remains out of shot.