It was the latest flare-up after Beijing accused Western media of bias in its reporting following violent protests in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa last month. U.S.-based CNN has been singled out by Chinese who say overseas news outlets are smearing China.
The comments reflect Cafferty's "ignorance and ... hostility" toward China, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said.
"We are shocked and strongly condemn the vicious remarks by Cafferty," ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said. "We solemnly request CNN and Cafferty himself take back the malicious remarks and apologize to the Chinese people."
The famously curmudgeonly Cafferty made the remarks during an appearance on "The Situation Room" that aired April 9, according to a transcript posted on the CNN Web site.
He was speaking about the U.S. trade deficit with China when he said, according to the transcript, "We continue to import their junk with the lead paint on them and the poisoned pet food and export, you know, jobs to places where you can pay workers a dollar a month to turn out the stuff that we're buying from Wal-Mart."
"So I think our relationship with China has certainly changed," he continued. "I think they're basically the same bunch of goons and thugs they've been for the last 50 years."
Network spokeswoman Edie Emery at CNN headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia, responded to a request for comment by pointing out a clarification Cafferty made Monday on "The Situation Room."
On his comment about the goons and thugs, "I was referring to the Chinese government, and not to Chinese people or to Chinese-Americans," he said on the program.
A CNN spokesman in Hong Kong said in an e-mail he did not have immediate comment on the Foreign Ministry's demand for an apology.
Chinese at home and abroad have denounced Western media for what it said was slanted reports about the unrest in Tibet. They say the news outlets have unjustly criticized Beijing in its crackdown, ignoring the region's history of feudalism under the Dalai Lama and its economic development under communist rule.
Numerous Web postings, YouTube videos and Facebook groups have criticized the Tibet news coverage, including a Web site called anti-cnn.com, which was set up especially to point out alleged media bias.