China has issued a stark warning to the Five Eyes countries, an intelligence alliance including New Zealand, that it risks "having their eyes poked out" for calling on China to obey international obligations in Hong Kong.
There are warnings this is only the beginning of tensions between China and the Five Eyes countries.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern used the virtual Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit to hammer home the importance of sticking to the rules.
"We must continue to ensure a level playing field and predictable rules for our exporters in the region."
Predictability was emphasised after the Five Eyes expressed "serious concern" over China's disqualification of elected lawmakers in Hong Kong, calling it part of a "concerted campaign to silence all critical voices."
The Foreign Minister was clear - New Zealand is stepping up the pressure on China.
"The reason why we joined a Five Eyes statement was to dial up the message because there's been enough concern expressed from several countries to warrant that next step," said Nanaia Mahuta.
China's taken immediate offence, its Foreign Minister saying, "No matter whether they have five eyes or 10 eyes, as long as they dare to harm China's sovereignty, security or development interests, they should be careful not to get their eyes poked out."
That attack was backed up by the Global Times, the state tabloid, its editor launching his own broadside against the Five Eyes.
Editor Hu Xijin Editor said it was becoming like a "mafia organisation".
Experts are warning this is only the beginning.
International Law expert Al Gillespie recommended everyone "put their seat belts on" amid prediction that with Joe Biden leading the US, New Zealand will be under increasing pressure from the Five Eyes to speak up.
"Both sides are going to either expect us to be silent or speak up more and the challenge for New Zealand will be to walk a very fine middle line."
Australia's already seen backlash - its exports blocked at China's border.
A taste of what could be heading New Zealand's way.