A mouthpiece for Beijing has taken a jab at Canberra calling Australians "poor white trash" and darkly warning there will be "consequences" if we don't play nice with China.
This morning stories about Australia appeared five times on the front page of the Global Times, a news website heavily aligned with the Chinese Communist Party. None of them were complementary.
Despite the insults and threats, the editorials claim China is being reasonable and it is Australia that is out of line.
Yet, not one of the stories addressed the issue of an Australian news reader who, it has emerged, has been detained by police in China since mid-August.
AUSTRALIA A 'NERVOUS BIRD'
In recent months, relations between Beijing and China have become increasingly fractious.
The Australian Government called for an international probe into the origins of the pandemic and has said it will consider giving Hong Kong residents the right to live in Australia as the former colony's freedoms are taken away.
In just the past few weeks, Canberra has blocked the sale of Dairy Farmers milk producer Lion Dairy to a Chinese firm, signalled greater scrutiny on Chinese-backed research and departments at Australian universities and warned it may halt Victoria's co-operation with Beijing's flagship international Belt and Road initiative. All of which has infuriated Beijing.
China has, in turn, slapped tariffs on Australian barley, blocked meat exports from a number of large Australian abattoirs, warned of racism on Australian campuses and made veiled threats it may discourage its students and tourists from heading Down Under.
When announcing the foreign relations bill last week, Prime Minister Scott Morrison did not mention China. Rather, he said: "Arrangements that adversely affect Australia's foreign relations or are inconsistent with our foreign policy could be prevented from proceeding or terminated".
In a piece published this morning, the Global Times made clear it wasn't buying it.
"China is the implicit target," it said.
"Whenever it comes to China, Australia behaves like a nervously alerted bird which tries to find a way out, but ends up facing a dead end."
As is often the case in Global Times' opinion pieces and editorials, Australia was painted as being a slavish follower of US policy and was "giving up the opportunity to think and act independently".
"It finds fault with China on almost all fronts where it cannot live without China, trapping itself in an embarrassing dilemma."
It said while some Australians blamed China for the "frosty relations," Canberra was in fact "the hostile one".
But it then went on to threaten Australia with retaliation.
"If Australia views this close economic relationship as well as China-Australia collaboration in other sectors as a burden rather than an opportunity, it will face far-reaching consequences it cannot bear. When that happens, the US won't come to its rescue."
There has been concern about the influence China is bringing to bear on the institutions it funds. Last week, it emerged textbooks which showed Taiwan as part of the People's Republic – despite the fact it is an independent nation – were being used in Victorian schools.
In another editorial, published on Monday, the same paper said Australia was "backsliding into a poor country in Asia Pacific".
Australia, it claimed, was "provoking China" and was on a "lose-lose path" that would "undoubtedly cause huge damage to its already severely injured economy".
"The momentum of trade liberalisation, investment facilitation, economic complementarity and normalisation of cultural exchanges has come to an abrupt end."
The publication recalled an infamous 1980 quote about Australia from then Singapore Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew.
"If Australia doesn't open up its economy and reduce unemployment, it risks becoming the 'poor white trash of Asia'."
China watchers have said the view of its columnists are likely more extreme than the Communist Party leadership and economic and cultural ties between the China and Australia remain strong and numerous.
Nonetheless, articles published by the Global Times back Beijing's policies to the hilt.
AUSTRALIAN DETAINED IN CHINA
Relations between China and Australia took another worrying turn on Monday when it was revealed an Australian journalist for China's state run television has been detained. So far, the Global Times has avoided commenting on this obvious issue of concern.
Cheng Lei was s a prominent anchor on English news channel China Global Television Network (CGTN). No charges appear to have been laid.
Foreign Minister Marise Payne confirmed the Australian citizen, who reportedly has two children in Melbourne, has been detained for weeks.
"Formal notification was received on 14 August 2020 from Chinese authorities of her detention," she said.
"Australian officials had an initial consular visit with Ms Cheng at a detention facility via video link on 27 August and will continue to provide assistance and support to her and her family."
On Twitter, Ms Cheng – anchor of the CGTN business show – describes herself as a "passionate orator of the China story".
She last tweeted on August 12. Her profile page on the CGTN website has disappeared.
Last week, China's Deputy Head of Mission to Australia Wang Xining told the National Press Club in Canberra that: "We are not trying to turn Australia into the People's Republic of China".
"We are not trying to replace your system with a presidential system. We're asking Hungry Jacks to sell Chinese dumplings."
But there the jests ended.
Mr Wang said the PM's decision to back an inquiry in the origins of the virus had "hurt the feelings" of the Chinese people.
Australia's move blindsided the country he said, just as it emerged to "take a breath" from the first outbreak in Wuhan and weeks in lockdown.
"All of a sudden, they heard there was this shocking proposal coming from Australia, which is supposed to be a good friend of China,'' he said.