Abe told the Washington Post in an interview published on Thursday that China uses disputes with Japan and others to shore up its domestic support.
China’s confrontational stance risked eventually harming its economy and scaring off foreign investors, Abe said.
“Such behavior is going to have an effect on their economic activity at the end of the day,” the newspaper quoted him as saying.
“In the case of China, teaching patriotism [is equivalent to] teaching anti-Japanese sentiment,” he added.
Beijing fired back, with Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Hong Lei (洪磊) saying outsiders have no right to criticize how China works.
“Only Chinese people have the right to speak about whether China’s political system and development strategy is suitable,” he told a regular briefing on Friday.
“The great renaissance of the Chinese people cannot be obstructed by anyone,” he added, saying that Beijing had demanded a clarification.
Hong was earlier quoted by the state-run Global Times newspaper as saying Chinese officials were “shocked” at Abe’s comments.
“It’s rare that a country’s leader would brazenly distort facts, attack its neighbor and instigate confrontation among countries in the region,” Hong said, according to the newspaper.
China’s Xinhua news agency in a commentary on Friday warned the US that backing Tokyo would risk damaging ties with China, urging Washington against “being hijacked” by Japan.
“US support for Japan on the issue would not only damage Washington’s credibility as a constructive superpower, but also as an important partner of China on many pressing global issues,” the commentary said.
US backing would only encourage Japan “to take further provocative actions, which will definitely send China-Japan relations to new lows and even threaten the peace and stability in East Asia,” Xinhua said.