Hu said the two leaders sought an outcome of "mutual benefit and win-win results".
But their meeting on Sunday at the Great Hall of the People on the edge of Tiananmen Square appeared to produce no breakthroughs on US demands for currency reforms in China, and no details about how China would cut its trade surplus with the United States, on track to hit $200 billion this year.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice expressed dismay over a crackdown on dissidents before Bush arrived.
She said the US side would raise the issue "vociferously with the Chinese government to both get a clarification and to make clear that we believe open societies allow people to express themselves".
She expressed disappointment with China's response to a US request in September for action on human rights cases.
"We've certainly not seen the progress that we would expect, and I think we will have to keep working on it," she said. "But obviously this is a long conversation and a long haul."
No questions were permitted during the joint appearance by Bush and Hu, but hoping to make a point about media freedoms, Bush later told reporters: "We've given China a list of dissidents that we believe are unfairly imprisoned."
He said he has urged fairer treatment of non-governmental charity organisations that operate in China, and suggested that the Chinese invite the Dalai Lama - the exiled spiritual leader from Tibet - and Roman Catholic leaders to China to discuss religious freedom.
"We've certainly not seen the progress that we would expect, and I think we will have to keep working on it"
US secretary of state
"President Hu is a thoughtful fellow, and he listened to what I had to say," Bush said. "It was very interesting in his comments that he talked about human rights. Those who watch China closely would say that maybe a decade ago a leader wouldn't have uttered those comments."
China's massive trade surplus is a political headache for Bush. As the president opened his visit, US officials spread word that Beijing was buying 70 of Boeing Co's 737 planes.
The administration said the purchase was "a testament to how our approach to China is yielding real results". But in a joint appearance with Hu, Bush said China needs to do more to provide fair opportunities for US farmers and businesses seeking access to China's market.
He said China needs to work harder to protect intellectual property rights. Piracy of US movies, computer programmes and other copyright material is rampant in China.
Bush is pressing China for a faster revaluation of its currency, which US companies contend is undervalued by as much as 40%. Undervaluation makes Chinese goods cheaper in the United States and American goods more expensive in China.
Balance of trade
Hu promised Bush that China will move to reduce its trade imbalance with the United States, but he did not discuss specific steps.
He said China was willing to step up protection for intellectual property and would "unswervingly" press ahead with currency reform - where the United States says Beijing has not lived up to its promises.
Hu (R) promised Bush that China
would reduce its trade imbalance
"The two sides also expressed their willingness to join hands together to gradually achieve a balance of trade between China and the United States," Hu said through a translator.
"The frictions and problems that may arise in this rapid development of the two-way trade may be properly addressed through consultations."