BEIJING (AFP, REUTERS) - China on Tuesday (Aug 24) held up America's chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan as an example of Washington's selfish foreign policy, hitting back at Vice-President Kamala Harris' accusations of intimidation in Asian waters.
During a trip to Singapore, Ms Harris took aim at Beijing for making claims to "the vast majority of the South China Sea" as she sought to reassure regional allies of America's commitment to Asia and binding international rules.
"We know that Beijing continues to coerce, to intimidate and to make claims to the vast majority of the South China Sea," Ms Harris said in her speech.
"These unlawful claims have been rejected by the 2016 arbitral tribunal decision, and Beijing's actions continue to undermine the rules-based order and threaten the sovereignty of nations," she said, referring to an international tribunal's ruling over China's claims in The Hague.
China rejected the ruling and has stood by its claim to most of the waters within a so-called Nine Dash Line on its maps, parts of which Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam also claim.
China's foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin snapped back, accusing the United States of hiding behind rhetoric of a rules-based global order to defend its own "bullying, hegemonic behaviour".
"The current events in Afghanistan clearly tell us what the rules and order the US speaks of are," Mr Wang told a regular press briefing in Beijing.
"The US can wantonly conduct military intervention in a sovereign country and does not need to be responsible for the suffering of the people in that country," he said.
"In order to defend 'America first', the US can arbitrarily smear, suppress, coerce and bully other countries without paying any price," Mr Wang added.
"This is the order the US wants... but who will believe them now?"
China has established military outposts on artificial islands in the South China Sea, which are crossed by vital shipping lanes and also contain gas fields and rich fishing grounds.
The US Navy regularly conducts "freedom of navigation" operations through the disputed waters, which China objects to, saying they do not help promote peace or stability.