China fired back at critics of its new anti-secession law, which is widely viewed as a license for the mainland to someday attack Taiwan.

Chinese officials criticized leaders in Taipei and the United States for voicing concerns about the law, which says China will resort to "non-peaceful" means if Taiwan takes steps to formally declare its independence from the mainland.

The law, passed unanimously Monday by China's congress, requires the use of military force if other means fail to get democratically ruled Taiwan to reunite with the communist mainland.

Enactment of the law prompted protests from Taipei, where organizers are calling for demonstrations against the law in the coming days.

Officials in Beijing stepped up their campaign to portray the law as a peaceful measure. Wang Zhaoguo, vice chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, spoke to reporters in Beijing and repeated the government's assertions that it would use force only as a last resort.

Mr. Wang says that under the law, China will adhere to peaceful means, and not use force as long as there is a glimmer of hope for peaceful unification.

Chinese officials have accused Taiwan's leaders of distorting the law. Mr. Wang says Taiwanese demonstrators are protesting the legislation only because, in his words, "they do not understand" it.

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman had similar criticism of the United States after U.S. officials called the law's passage "unfortunate."

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is expected to raise the Bush administration's concerns over the law when she visits China next week. Her agenda on the two-day visit includes a meeting Sunday with President Hu Jintao.