China's state-owned newspaper The Global Times has again escalated tensions with Australia after publishing a brutal new cartoon trashing Aussie soldiers.
The latest offering by the notoriously aggressive tabloid 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.
The cartoon, created by artist Liu Rui, is an overt reference to recent allegations that Australian soldiers committed war crimes, including killing 39 Afghans.
The new cartoon is the latest indication that China is not backing down in its feud with Australia, which has been simmering for years but which came to a head this week after Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian shared a doctored image on Twitter which showed an Australian soldier holding a knife to the throat of a young child.
Since then, China has doubled down on its attack, with the Global Times sharing a series of fresh cartoons and scathing editorials criticising Australia.
On December 1, the newspaper released another cartoon featuring a kangaroo in a suit with a bloodied knife next to it by artist Chen Xia, along with an editorial slamming Prime Minister Scott Morrison and defending the artist behind the original tweet, Wuheqilin.
That article demanded Mr Morrison and the Australian Government "take full responsibility for the deteriorating relationship with China" and claimed "Australia exaggerated and distorted Zhao's comment and use of cartoon over the crime of Australian troops, calling it "a false image".
"The country that owes an apology is Australia – to China. And to Afghanistan first and foremost for slaughtering their innocent people," the editorial reads.
"It needs to seriously reassess the damage done its own international optics caused by this double standard outburst regarding 'freedom of speech' and 'human rights'."
And in an opinion piece accompanying the latest picture, which was written by Afghanistan Times Daily editor-in-chief Mansoor Faizy, it was argued that the war of words over the cartoon meant the real tragedy – the killing of Afghans – was ignored.
"A storm of outrage escalated after Chinese officials refused to remove the post, rather than ask Australian officials to apologise to the Afghan people for the unlawful killing of innocent Afghans with inhuman war crimes," Mr Fazy wrote.
"It's the Australian soldiers who diminished their country's image by killing helpless Afghan innocents. Asking China to remove the post, or being ashamed of this post, does no good to Australia.
"The best thing Canberra can do is to investigate the war crimes in the most transparent way."
The latest stoush with China has sparked calls for Australian consumers to boycott Chinese products this Christmas, with One Nation's Pauline Hanson urging Aussies to hit China where it hurts in retaliation to "China's recent economic attacks against Australia".
However, the relationship between the two nations has been in decline since the US – a close ally of Australia – entered a trade war with the economic giant in 2018.
That year, Australia angered China by becoming the first nation to ban Chinese smartphone heavyweight Huawei from its 5G network over national security concerns.
Relations also nosedived earlier this year when Mr Morrison called for an independent inquiry into the origins of the lethal coronavirus pandemic.
Since then, China has dealt a series of trade blows, with everything from barley to timber and rock lobsters being slapped with sanctions.
Most recently, China decided to impose tariffs of up to 212 per cent on Australian wine imports, a move set to have a devastating impact on the industry.
In November, China also leaked a bombshell dossier listing 14 reasons why it was "angry" at Australia.