Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’s denunciation of China’s “predatory economic behavior” with respect to smaller neighbors “is just immoral,” a diplomat in Beijing insisted Wednesday.

“The U.S. has fabricated lies time and again and made irresponsible remarks out of its political needs, which is very disappointing,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang told reporters during his press briefing, per the official transcript.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has made overseas investment a centerpiece of his agenda, which U.S. officials regard as a dramatic play for international power. The potential threat has percolated for years, with lawmakers worried that the Beijing-backed infrastructure projects — especially a series of strategically-located ports — are destined to house the Communist power’s growing military.

Kang faulted the U.S. for not stepping in with similar funding. "The relevant country, if it had failed to serve that hope, should at least refrain from obstructing assistance provided to these developing countries by others or even serving its political ends at the cost of the benefits of the people of developing countries,” he said. “This is just immoral.”

That was a direct response to a rebuke reiterated by Mattis during a trip to Vietnam. “[China is conducting] certainly predatory economic behavior, where massive debt is piled on countries that fiscal analysis would say they are going to have difficulty, at best, repaying in the smaller countries,” he told reporters on Monday.

Most notably, China funded the construction of a port in Sri Lanka, where the tiny island government soon defaulted on the debt and lost control of the facility. “It's technically commercial, but you've already seen military vessels, submarines, dock there,” Rick Rossow, an India expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told the Washington Examiner.

Such developments are driving India, which is the world’s largest democracy but also has a foreign policy history of “non-alignment,” into closer partnership with the U.S. It’s not just the Sri Lanka port, which is just southeast of India’s coast. China is also building a naval base in Gwadar, Pakistan, despite the lack of “commercial relevance” in that area.

“Non-alignment is not true in Asia today,” said Rossow. “You look across the Indian Ocean region, China's there . . . India sees it.”

Kang protested those kinds of criticisms as nothing but fearmongering.

“The U.S. attempt to pin a false label on China is just unpopular,” he said. “We urge the U.S. side to put in perspective China’s cooperation with other developing countries, and we would more like to see that the U.S. will make more useful contributions to the development of developing countries instead of sowing discords.”