China lashed out at United States Vice-President Mike Pence yesterday for a speech that it said was "full of arrogance and hypocrisy, political prejudice and lies", after Mr Pence accused Beijing of a wide range of transgressions and growing aggression.
In a rare move, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying read out a strongly worded statement at a regular news briefing, saying China resolutely opposed Mr Pence's remarks.
The American Vice-President, in a speech that lasted nearly 40 minutes at an event by non-partisan think-tank Wilson Centre, had taken Beijing to task on intellectual property theft, expansionism in the South China Sea and repression of Muslim Uighurs in Xinjiang.
But he also stressed that the US was still open to practical cooperation with its rival, and does not seek to contain its development nor to decouple from it.
Yesterday, Ms Hua defended China's record on human rights and religious freedom, and said the US should "take a good look in the mirror" instead of turning a blind eye to its own problems.
"From large-scale monitoring under its Prism surveillance programme to frequent serious shootings, from ubiquitous racial discrimination to an obvious gap between the rich and the poor, from sanctions against other countries to arbitrary withdrawal from international treaties, its morality and credibility have long been lost," she said.
Mr Pence's closely watched address comes ahead of next month's Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) Summit in Chile, where the White House is hoping that President Donald Trump will sign a preliminary trade deal with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
The Vice-President said that since his watershed speech at the Hudson Institute think-tank a year ago, when he delivered a similar hawkish broadside against China, the East Asian giant has continued to aid and abet the theft of American intellectual property.
China's Communist Party is also building a historically unrivalled surveillance state targeting its ethnic minorities, and is even exporting the technological tools it uses in places such as the Xinjiang region to countries in Latin America and Africa, he added.
"China's military action in the region and its approach to its neighbours over the past year have also remained increasingly provocative."
Mr Pence also spoke up for the protesters in Hong Kong and chided American sports corporations Nike and the National Basketball Association for kowtowing to China.
But he gave the assurance that despite headwinds in their bilateral relationship, the Trump administration will continue to negotiate with China in good faith.
"We seek a level playing field - open markets, fair trade and a respect for our values. We are not seeking to contain China's development. We want a constructive relationship with China's leaders like we have enjoyed for generations with China's people," he said.
Ms Hua, too, urged the US to play ball. "Mutual respect and seeking common ground while accepting differences is the way to get along with each other."
Still, angry netizens took to Chinese microblog Weibo to attack Mr Pence for what they saw as arrogance and meddling in other countries' affairs.
"He said he respects American values, but does America respect our values?" asked one Weibo user.
The Communist Party tabloid, Global Times, dispensed with its usually strident tone in an editorial yesterday, choosing to focus on Mr Pence's remarks about continued cooperation with China.
"China and the US have different political systems. It means that it is impossible to change the political foundation of China. However, China and the US have many reasons to stick with peaceful co-existence and win-win cooperation," it wrote.