Hu in Washington
Chinese President Hu Jintao arrived in the United States on Tuesday for a four-day state visit against the backdrop of US complaints about Beijing's currency policies.
Hu received a red-carpet greeting with full military honors at Andrews Air Force base, being met by Vice-President Joe Biden before heading to a rare, private dinner with US President Barack Obama in the White House residence.
They were joined by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and US National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, and their Chinese counterparts.
On Wednesday, Hu is to be formally welcomed at the White House with full diplomatic pomp before meeting with Obama for talks in the Oval Office.
The pair will also attend a meeting of top business leaders from both nations, with multi-billion-dollar deals on the table.
Chinese diplomats travelling ahead of Hu had already on Monday signed deals with six US companies to the tune of $600 million (450 million euros).
Issues at stake
Analysts are calling Hu's visit the most important by a Chinese leader in 30 years. It comes as the world's two largest economies have clashed repeatedly over the value of the Chinese currency, the yuan.
US officials maintain that China keeps the yuan artificially low to boost exports - a practice they say harms American jobs and growth.
Trade disputes, US arms sales to Taiwan and the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo have also been contentious issues leading to prickly relations in recent months.
Whilst few analysts expect major breakthroughs on any of these key issues, the White House is expected to push the Chinese delegation on a number of issues, including cooperation on controlling Iran's nuclear program, exercising a moderating influence on North Korea, and helping to ensure a peaceful outcome to South Sudan's independence referendum.
Author: Darren Mara (Reuters, AFP)
Editor: Michael Lawton