U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden stressed the importance of personal ties as he met Thursday with his Chinese counterpart for talks that officials described as productive and optimistic about a resolution of U.S. economic woes.
On his first visit to China as vice president, Biden seemed to click with Xi Jinping _ the country's leader-in-waiting _ during talks that ran almost an hour overtime at the Great Hall of the People in central Beijing.
They followed a formal welcoming ceremony including an honor-guard and the playing the Chinese and U.S. national anthems.
In his opening remarks, Biden said forming a personal relationship was important and that the countries needed to work together for both their own prosperity and that of the world.
"I would suggest that there is no more important relationship that we need to establish on the part of the United States than a close relationship with China," he told Xi, who is expected to take over as Communist Party chief next year.
"I am absolutely confident that the economic stability of the world rests in no small part on cooperation between the United States and China," he said. "It is the key, in my view, to global stability."
Biden said the overwhelming reason he came to China was to discuss jobs and growth and the "reordering of our economies," a reference to China's drive to move from manufacturing to a more service-oriented economy and U.S. efforts to trim deficit spending.
Getting a better reading of Xi, who will visit Washington later this year, is another central purpose of the visit.
Besides meetings in Beijing, Xi will accompany Biden on a weekend visit to Sichuan province, parts of which were devestated by a massive earthquake in 2008. The U.S. vice president will deliver a speech at a high school there and visit quake reconstruction projects.
Biden told Xi he was impressed with his "sweep and knowledge of history, impressed with your openness and candor," adding he viewed foreign policy as more than just formal visits.
"It's establishing personal relationships and trust. And it is my fond hope that our personal relationship will continue to grow," he said.
Biden and Xi also discussed human rights issues, the ever-prickly issue of Taiwan, and cooperation on Pakistan, Iran, North Korea and other international challenges, said administration officials speaking on routine condition of anonymity.
China's worries about the U.S. economy were prominent in the discussions, but without the tone of fear and disgust projected by China's entirely state-controlled media, which has issued repeated broadsides alleging gross U.S. economic mismanagement.
Beijing is concerned about a possible third round of bond buying by the Federal Reserve, known as quantitative easing. It is supposed to push down interest rates and boost investment by injecting money into the economy, but Beijing worries that it will boost prices of commodities traded in dollars, fuel inflation and erode the value of its $1.2 trillion in U.S. Treasury debt.
Xi said the financial crisis meant the countries had to work even more closely together.
"I too believe that under the new situation, China and the United States have ever more extensive, common interests, and we shoulder ever more common responsibilities," he said.
Beijing has repeatedly appealed to Washington to protect foreign investors and the dollar. It has avoided publicly making specific demands, but this week's commentaries in the entirely state-controlled press offered up advice focusing on longer-term reforms to cut its budget and trade deficits, raise savings and create jobs.
The Chinese side was interested in the negotiations that led to the raising of the federal government's debt ceiling that was followed swiftly by the downgrading of the U.S. credit rating, but seemed far from anxious, the U.S. officials said. They were confident in the U.S. ability to adapt and recover from its economic difficulties, one official said.
The officials described the talks as remarkably open, candid and unscripted, with little use of notes or talking points.
Relations have frequently been roiled over the island, and the next flash point could come when the United States is expected to decide by Oct. 1 on Taiwan's long-mooted bid to buy relatively advanced F-16 C/D fighter jets.
After his China trip, Biden flies to Mongolia on Monday and then later the same day to Japan for talks.