"It is not a separate or random incident but has a deep background," Cui told journalists at the Chinese embassy in Washington DC on Friday afternoon.
Cui believes what Abe has done cannot be explained as a personal action but rather as one of a prime minister and national leader.
"This is a political action with clear political purpose," said Cui, who was China's vice-foreign minister before assuming his current post in April 2013.
Cui said Abe should have been fully aware of the negative impact of the Yasukuni issue on Japan's relations with its neighbours.
Abe became the first sitting Japanese prime minister in seven years to visit Yasukuni. The previous visit was made by then prime minister Junichiro Koizumi, when Abe served as chief cabinet secretary.
"Why did he choose to pay homage to the Yasukuni shrine after seven years? This utterly reflects his view on history, his political stance and his policy direction," said Cui, who had served as China's ambassador to Japan from 2007 to 2010.
"This issue, ultimately, is about whether the hard-won achievements of the world's antifascist war still count, and whether the post-war international order should be protected and whether Japan under Abe can continue on a path of peaceful development," Cui said.
The war criminals honoured at the Yasukuni include Iwane Matsui - a Japanese Imperial Army general who ordered the massacre of 300,000 Chinese civilians and unarmed soldiers in Nanjing from late 1937 to early 1938 - and Hideki Tojo - the then Japanese prime minister who was responsible for the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, which drew the US into WWII.
Cui said Abe's homage to these war criminals shows he wants to follow in their footsteps and reverse history's verdict.
"Fundamentally, he wants to go back to the militarist path," he said.
"So this is a matter of principle and absolutely not a personal or random action."
While China and South Korea have expressed outrage at Abe's visit, the US government has also expressed its disappointment. Some mainstream US and European media published editorials denouncing Abe.
In an editorial on Dec 28, the Washington Post described Abe's visit as a "provocative act".
Cui said: "The international community should have a clear view on this … and we should not allow Abe to lead Japan in the wrong direction."
Both Chinese and South Korean leaders have refused to meet Abe in recent years. Throughout his career, the right-wing Japanese leader has pushed for the revision of textbooks to whitewash Japan's WWII history; denied that government coercion was involved when "comfort women" from South Korea, China and the Philippines were forced into prostitution by the Japanese empire; and questioned whether Japan's wartime actions should be defined as "aggression".
In the past year, Abe has also advocated revisions to Japan's pacifist constitution - a message he reiterated in his New Year's message last week. Article 9 of the Japanese constitution forbids the use of war to settle international disputes.
Cui believes most Japanese people, who are peace-loving and want to live in peace with neighbouring countries, will not support Abe's actions.
A telephone survey by Kyodo News a week ago found 70 per cent of respondents want Abe to heed the diplomatic fallout following his shrine visit.
"If Abe's policy leads Japan in a wrong direction and history repeats itself, it will be the Japanese people who will become victims," Cui said.
"So I think Japanese people can see through his deception."