One of the main architects of China's foreign policy, Qian Qichen, has criticised US President George Bush just days before the American election.
Mr Qian's comments are usually made in private
The former vice-premier accused the US administration of trying to "rule over the whole world".
He added that the "philosophy of the 'Bush Doctrine' is in essence force".
In an article printed in the state-run China Daily newspaper, Mr Qian also said the US-led Iraq war had sparked an increase in terrorist attacks.
His comments mark a departure from China's usual stance of refusing to comment on US presidential candidates.
Mr Bush faces his main challenger, Democrat leader John Kerry, in what is expected to be an extremely close election on Tuesday.
Qian Qichen is a former Chinese foreign minister and vice-premier, credited with helping China out of diplomatic isolation after the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests.
He said the "Bush Doctrine" developed in the wake of the September 11 attacks in New York and Washington had led the US to tighten its grip on many areas of the world.
The policy "advocates the United States should rule over the whole world with overwhelming force, military force in particular," he said.
Mr Qian said the war in Iraq had caused a rise in worldwide terrorist activity, and broadened the rift between the US and Europe.
Far from winning peace, Washington's actions had
had "opened a Pandora's box" intensifying ethnic and religious
conflicts, he said.
"The Iraq war was an optional one, not a necessary one,
and the pre-emptive principle should be removed from the
dictionary of the US national security."
He added that Washington was now less popular internationally than at the time of the Vietnam War.
"Bush did not even dare to meet the public on the streets when he visited Britain, the closest ally of the United States," Mr Qian said.
It is unclear what prompted Mr Qian's comments, but US-Chinese relations have been strained recently by trade disputes, as well as
Washington's refusal to send home Chinese Muslim detainees from the Guantanamo Bay military base in Cuba.