Ross said the U.S. doesn't mind competition — but that it wants the race to be "on a fair and level playing field."
"That means not so much in the way of trade barriers, not so much in the way of protectionist activities, not so much in the way of impediments in the way of companies operating there, not so much in the way of forced technology transfers, things of that sort," Ross added.
The presidential administration of Donald Trump has taken aim at what it says are unfair trade practices and industrial policies by other countries that harm the U.S. economy and workers. China is one of the countries under the microscope.
The Commerce Department said earlier this month that the U.S.-China trade deficit hit an 11-month high in July.
Ross also slammed the World Trade Organization system as "archaic," as it was designed for the post-war trade world, not the modern trade world.
The United States made a policy decision after World War II to help Asia and European countries recover from that conflict, but that policy is no longer is as relevant as it once was, he said.
"It's very hard to say that China as now the world's second largest economy needs the same sort of preferential treatment that it might be justified to have decades ago," Ross said.