China has warned Google that its business could suffer if it continues to suggest that Chinese spies have been targeting the emails of United States' officials.
Google is "trying to provoke a new dispute between China and the US" and has become a "political tool", said a front-page editorial of the Chinese-language People's Daily Overseas, an offshoot of the Communist party's main newspaper mouthpiece.
"Google's accusations aimed at China are spurious, have ulterior motives, and bear malign intentions," the commentary said.
"Google should not become overly embroiled in international political struggle, playing the role of a tool for political contention," the paper added.
"For when the international winds shift direction, it may become sacrificed to politics and will be spurned by the marketplace," it said, without specifying how Google's business could be hurt.
Last week, Google said it had discovered an attempt to steal the email passwords of hundreds of its email account holders, including US government officials, Chinese human rights activists and journalists.
It said it had traced the attacks to Jinan, in Shandong province.
It did not directly accuse the Chinese government of orchestrating the attacks, but it appeared to hint strongly at its involvement, prompting angry denials from Beijing.
"Blaming these misdeeds on China is unacceptable," said a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign ministry. "Hacking is an international problem and China is also a victim. The claims of so-called support for hacking are completely unfounded and have ulterior motives," he added.
Over the weekend, China's Defence minister, Liang Guanglie, also denied China's involvement and said China was also a major target for hackers. According to China's Internet Emergency Response Centre, China saw a 1620.3 per cent rise in cyber attacks in 2010, many of them seeming to originate from the United States.
The People's Daily said Google was "deliberately pandering to negative Western perceptions of China" and that it had repeatedly failed to produce any evidence for its cyber-espionage claims.
"This is not the first slander from Google [...] if the company has any evidence, why not settle the matter through the courts," the editorial said. "Why does Google again and again try to discredit China and try to sway public opinion towards thinking there is a China threat?"
Computer security experts in the US, however, said the number of attacks emanating from China had spiked in recent months. Kevin Mandia, chief executive of Mandiant, one security firm, told the Wall Street Journal that his firm saw four to five times the normal number of attacks in April.
Google closed down its China-based servers last year after complaining about hacking attacks and censorship and now redirects Chinese internet users to its Hong Kong search engine.