China has accused Nato of slandering its peaceful development after alliance leaders warned about "systemic challenges" coming from Beijing.
China's actions, including expanding its nuclear arsenal, threatened "rules-based international order", Nato said.
It was the first time Nato had placed China at the centre of its agenda.
In its response, China said its defence policy was "defensive in nature" and urged Nato to "devote more of its energy to promoting dialogue".
"Our pursuit of defence and military modernisation is justified, reasonable, open and transparent," China's mission to the European Union said in a statement.
It added that Nato should view China's development in a "rational manner" and "stop taking China's legitimate interests and rights as an excuse to manipulate bloc politics, create confrontation and fuel geopolitical competition".