China has sharply criticized a U.S. congressional commission for advocating an expansion of U.S. military power in Asia as a counterweight to China's modernizing military.
In a briefing to reporters Thursday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei accused the panel of having a "Cold War" mentality.
The U.S. Congress created the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission to advise lawmakers on China-related policy. Hong said the panel has been releasing reports "brimming with ideological prejudice" for years.
The commission issued an annual report Wednesday, saying China's growing military capabilities are "challenging decades of U.S. military preeminence" in the Asia-Pacific region.
The report urged Congress to keep funding efforts to move 60 percent of U.S. military vessels to the Pacific by 2020. Currently, only 50 percent of the ships are stationed there.
The commission also accused the Chinese government of "directing and executing a large-scale cyber espionage campaign against the United States." It said U.S. sanctions may be necessary to deter such spying.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong said Beijing "maintains a path of peaceful development" and pursues a military policy that is "defensive in nature." He said China hopes the U.S. congressional panel will do "fewer things to disturb" U.S.-China relations.
China has steadily increased its military expenditures in recent decades, though it remains far outpaced by the United States in defense spending.
U.S. commission chairman William Reinsch said China is more aggressively projecting its power abroad. He said Beijing especially is using "coercive" tactics in the East and South China Seas, where it has overlapping territorial claims with many of its neighbors.
"It is becoming clear that China does not intend to resolve its maritime disputes through multilateral negotiations or the application of international laws and adjudicative processes, but prefers to use its growing power in support of coercive tactics to pressure its neighbors to concede [to] China's claims," said Reinsch.
This comes as President Barack Obama pledges to put a greater economic and military emphasis on the region. The commission welcomed Obama's promised "pivot" toward Asia, but noted that many U.S. allies are concerned that budget constraints will limit his ability to follow through.
Commissioner Larry Wortzel urged U.S. lawmakers to take action in response to China's military development.
"By 2020, China's navy and air force will outnumber and almost match the technical capabilities of our own forces in the Asia Pacific," he said. "A shrunken military may be insufficient to deter China or to reassure our friends and allies in the region."
The panel also spoke of an "urgent need" for Washington to convince Beijing to change its approach to cyber spying, which some analysts say has cost U.S. companies billions of dollars.
Wortzel said China's military views cyberspace as a "critical element of its strategic competition with the United States."
"The Chinese government is directing and executing a large scale cyber espionage campaign that poses a major threat to U.S. industry, critical infrastructure, military operations, personnel, equipment, and readiness," he said.
The report said U.S. sanctions may be necessary to change China's "cost-benefit calculus." It listed import bans, travel bans, and other economic restrictions as possible actions to be taken against those found to be stealing U.S. secrets.