China says it was maligned in US President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address, which repeatedly mentioned competition between the two countries.

China is not afraid of competing with the United States, but it is «opposed to defining the entire China-US relationship in terms of competition,» Foreign Ministry spokesman Mao Ning said at a daily briefing on Wednesday.

“It is not the practice of a responsible country to smear a country or restrict the legitimate development rights of the country under the excuse of competition, even at the expense of disrupting the global industrial and supply chain,” Mao said.

China will defend its interests and the United States should work with it to «promote the return of bilateral relations to a solid and stable development path,» he said.

Mao’s comments came against a backdrop of raging disputes over trade, Taiwan, human rights and access to advanced technologies.

President Biden delivers the State of the Union address in Washington on Tuesday. Jacquelyn Martin / AFP – Getty Images

Biden mentioned China and its leader, Xi Jinping, at least seven times in his speech on Tuesday night, focusing mainly on how the United States was increasingly prepared to compete with Beijing while also seeking to avoid conflict.

“I have made it clear to President Xi that we seek competition, not conflict,” Biden said.

“I will not apologize because we are investing to make America stronger. Invest in American innovation, in industries that will define the future and that the Chinese government intends to dominate,” she said.

Biden said his administration is «committed to working with China where it can advance American interests and benefit the world.»

However, he also warned that «if China threatens our sovereignty, we will act to protect our country,» referring to the downing on Saturday of a suspected Chinese spy balloon that had traversed the continental United States.

China says the balloon was a civil unmanned aircraft used for meteorological research and has strongly protested the US action and threatened unspecified countermeasures.

The incident prompted US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to cancel a trip to China this week that had raised hopes of reversing the continuing deterioration in relations between Beijing and Washington.