Chinese tabloid the Global Times has hailed China's anti-espionage skills after a US report at the weekend said Beijing had killed or jailed up to 20 Central Intelligence Agency sources following a devastating security breach.
At the same time, the newspaper accused Washington and the US media of narcissism for always portraying itself as the good guy in such incidents.
"If this article is telling the truth, we would like to applaud China's anti-espionage activities. Not only was the CIA's spy network dismantled, but Washington had no idea what happened and which part of the spy network had gone wrong. It can be taken as a sweeping victory," said the paper, which is part of a stable that also includes the Communist Party's official organ, People's Daily.
A New York Times report at the weekend cited former American officials saying that between the final weeks of 2010 and the end of 2012, the Chinese killed at least a dozen of the CIA's sources. One was shot in front of his colleagues in the courtyard of a government building as a message to others who might have been working for the agency.
The report said the Chinese killed or imprisoned 18 to 20 of the CIA's sources in China, destroying a network that had taken years to build.
"When the US media is keen on hyping up 'catching Chinese spies', they should forego their moral narcissism when reporting CIA espionage in China. It's absurd that under their description, the US is always the noble side whether it is catching spies or sending spies," it said.
The Global Times report was critical of the timing of the story, which it said came at a time when relations between Beijing and Washington were relatively smooth but shortly before a round of China-US diplomatic and security talks were due to take place next month.
"Many American political elites are willing to see more friction between China and the US. Now with the latest report, they have found a new angle to stir up distrust between the US and China over espionage," the Global Times said.
Spying has been much on the agenda of late in China.
On Monday, Japan's chief cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga said Chinese authorities have put six Japanese men into detention since March, amid growing speculation they are being held for suspected espionage.
"We were notified by China that three Japanese men each, six in total, had been detained in March by the Chinese authorities in Shandong province and Hainan province," Mr Suga told a regular press briefing in Tokyo, cited by the Japan Times.
Beijing's Public Security Bureau recently announced that it was offering rewards to the general public for information about foreign spies, and there was also a poster campaign with instructions for Chinese women about how to avoid the attentions of western spies using seduction as a way of gaining information.