Beijing summoned the US ambassador and accused Washington of double standards yesterday as a diplomatic row escalated over the unprecedented indictment of five Chinese military officers for cyber-espionage.
The world's top two economies have long been at loggerheads over hacking and China's defence ministry denounced Washington's allegations as "a pure fabrication by the US, a move to mislead the public based on ulterior motives".
"From 'WikiLeaks' to the 'Snowden' case, US hypocrisy and double standards regarding the issue of cyber-security have long been abundantly clear," the ministry said in a statement on its website.
China also summoned US ambassador Max Baucus to lodge a "solemn representation" over the indictment, suspended cooperation with the US on cyber-security issues and banned the use of Microsoft's Windows 8 operating system on all new government computers.
Beijing's furious response came one day after the US charged five members of a shadowy Chinese military unit with allegedly hacking US companies for trade secrets.
In the first-ever prosecution of state actors over cyber-espionage, a federal grand jury indicted the five on charges they broke into US computers to benefit Chinese state-owned companies, leading to job losses in the US in the steel, solar and other industries.
Cyber-spying has long been a major sticking point in relations but Washington's move marked a major escalation in the dispute.
Analysts said the US was unlikely to be able to put the men on trial but the indictments were an attempt to apply public pressure on China over the issue.
The grand jury indicted each of the five on 31 counts, which each carry up to 15 years in prison.
US Attorney General Eric Holder called on China to hand over the men for trial in Pittsburgh and said the United States would use "all the means that are available to us" should it refuse.