US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has suggested that China will fail in its efforts to resist democracy.
In an interview published during high-level talks with a Chinese delegation in Washington, Mrs Clinton said China was running scared because of the popular uprisings in the Arab world.
She criticised China's crackdown on dissent as "a fool's errand", saying Beijing is trying to halt history.
In the interview with The Atlantic, Mrs Clinton also called the China's human rights record "deplorable".
She defended US dealings with Beijing, saying: "We live in the real world."
The BBC says Mrs Clinton seemed to suggest the Chinese system itself would collapse and that democracy was inevitable.
The article quoted Mrs Clinton as saying last month that China's leaders were ''worried'' that the wave of pro-democracy protests overtaking the Middle East would spread east to China.
''They're trying to stop history, which is a fool's errand,'' she said. ''They cannot do it, but they're going to hold it off as long as possible.''