Beijing played down any suggestion of regional rivalry with New Delhi after India's successful test launch of a long-range missile on Thursday.
But official Chinese media warned India not to overestimate its own strength.
"China has taken note of reports of India's missile launch," Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Liu Weimin told a regular news briefing in Beijing.
"China and India are both big emerging countries, we are not rivals but cooperation partners," Liu said.
India triumphantly announced its membership in an elite club of nations with the capability to hit targets 5,000 kilometers (3,100 miles) away following the successful test of its Agni-V nuclear-capable ballistic missile.
"India is today a nation with proven capability to design, develop, and produce a long-range ballistic missile," India's Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) chief V.K. Saraswat told reporters following the launch.
"India is a missile power now," he said.
Beijing's Global Times newspaper, which has strong ties to the ruling Communist Party, was scathing in its appraisal of the news, however.
"India apparently is hoping to enter the global intercontinental missile club, despite intercontinental missiles normally having a range of over 8,000 k.m.," the paper said in an editorial in English.
It hit out at Western countries for double standards for not condemning the test firing of the Agni-V.
"The West chooses to overlook India's disregard of nuclear and missile control treaties," the editorial said. "The West remains silent on the fact that India's military spending increased by 17 percent."
"Indian public opinion has long seen China as its reference point for military development," it said, adding that China understood why India might seek to keep up with its more prosperous neighbor.
"China understands the Indian desire to catch up with China. China ... is willing to take India as a peaceful competitor," the Global Times said.
But it warned against a regional arms race, adding that China's nuclear capability still outpaced that of its regional rival: "For the foreseeable future, India would stand no chance in an overall arms race with China."
Chinese netizens also picked up on recent condemnation of North Korea's failed missile launch.
"Why has there been no reaction from the international community to India's launch of an intercontinental missile? Will the U.S. speak out against it?," wrote user @yi-cai on the popular Sina Weibo microblogging service.
And user @xiao-kexiao commented: "North Korea is hardly going to toe the line now, is it? Or Iran, for that matter."
U.S. State Department Mark Toner gave a cautious response to the planned Agni-V launch on Wednesday.
"Naturally, I just would say that we urge all nuclear-capable states to exercise restraint regarding nuclear capabilities," Toner told reporters.
"That said, India has a solid nonproliferation record," he added.
Other online comments on Sina Weibo saw the Agni-V launch as a threat to China's interests in the region, including long-running border disputes.
"Surely, as India's missile technology gets more and more advanced, the chances of the southern part of Tibet being peacefully returned to China get smaller and smaller?," wrote user @xiahaoyu.
Meanwhile, some microbloggers echoed the condescending tone of the Global Times.
"So India is now a barefoot country that isn't afraid to wear shoes!" wrote user @nagehema, while user @mengqiD replied: "Just don't forget that Chinese people are good at scattering nails all over the road."
Tensions in the Sino-Indian relationship have revolved around border disputes in Tibet and in the border regions of northwest China, as well as India's sheltering of exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama along with a large Tibetan community and its government-in-exile.
Reported by Luisetta Mudie.