China on Thursday rejected a U.S. call to adopt democracy, telling Washington to respect its communist path.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang told reporters he had "taken note" of comments by Deputy Secretary of State Robert B. Zoellick on Wednesday that China's one-party system was unsustainable. Qin said that the country was stable and that communism had brought substantial benefits to China's 1.3 billion people.

Zoellick made the Bush administration's most explicit call to date for a political transition in China, where the Communist Party will mark its 56th anniversary in power on Oct. 1.

"Closed politics cannot be a permanent feature of Chinese society," Zoellick told a meeting of the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations in New York. "It is simply not sustainable."

China "needs a political transition to make its government responsible and accountable to its people," he added.

On Thursday, Qin said the United States had no right to dictate political morality to China. "The internal affairs should be handled by the government and people of each country," he said.

Relations between the United States and China have been tense lately, as charges have been leveled that China has not explained a rapid military buildup and that its trade policies are hurting U.S. interests.