Framed by the backdrop of four rolled up Australian flags, Prime Minister Scott Morrison sat with a stony-faced gaze.
Morrison called the violent image “disgusting” and demanded an apology from China and its removal from both Zhao’s account and Twitter entirely.
With a single post, tensions between the two nations really spilled over with the pot almost burned.
What caused such a reaction?
Political ties between Australia and China have been strained for many years, some claiming the relationship soured in 2018 when Australia banned Huawei from its fledgling 5G broadband network.
These tensions were said to have been intensified by Australia’s concern over China’s attempts to secure greater influence in the Pacific.
It was in late April this year that Australia called for an independent investigation into the origins of the coronavirus, which is believed to have started in a wet market in Wuhan.
On April 22, Morrison told reporters that he had proposed to various world leaders the creation of an international coalition to give the World Health Organization (WHO) greater powers when it comes to responses to a pandemic.
In an apparent response, Beijing’s ambassador to Australia said Chinese consumers could boycott Australian meat, wine, tourism and universities in response to Canberra’s demand.
Days later, Beijing suspended imports from four of Australia’s largest meat processors, worth about 20 percent of Canberra’s beef exports to China.
In June, China’s state media claimed that Australia was stepping up espionage efforts against Beijing, including spying on Chinese students and broadcasting “fake news” to the media to exalt theories about Chinese espionage.
“What we will never do is change who we are or what we stand for,” Birmingham said.
“We will never sell our national interest. We will not compromise our sovereignty, our values or our principles.”
“There is no legal basis for China to establish straight baselines connecting the outermost points of maritime features or ‘island groups’ in the South China Sea,” the Australian statement read.
“Australia rejects China’s claim of ‘historical rights’ or ‘maritime rights and interests’ established in the ‘long course of historical practice’ in the South China Sea.”
Relations between Canberra and Beijing continued to deteriorate with an Australian journalist in China detained by Chinese authorities.
On August 31, Foreign Minister Marise Payne confirmed that Cheng Lei was being detained by the Chinese authorities.
Just weeks later, news organizations dramatically removed ABC reporter Bill Britles and Michael Smith of The Australian Financial Review from China over concerns for safety.
9News political editor Chris Uhlmann said AFR and ABC decided their journalists faced an “unacceptable risk” of possible arbitrary detention.
“(It is) an extraordinary thing to think that relations are so bad now between China and Australia that journalists would no longer be considered safe,” he said.
Zhao’s complaints followed the publication by Chinese officials of a list of 14 complaints that China has with Australia.
At the top of the list are decisions to ban Huawei from deploying the 5G network, foreign interference laws, and a call for an investigation into the origins of COVID-19.
“We will not change any of that,” he said during an interview with Today in quarantine at the Lodge after returning from Japan.
Now that Morrison is waiting for an apology for that image, it is now in the hands of China.