"On these and other issues, China must be part of the solution," Steinberg told the National Bureau of Asian Research, a Washington-based think-tank.

"The United States, under the Obama administration, is committing to do its part to develop this new relationship and is supporting this dimension of Chinese aspirations."

In depth
 
Under the previous US administration of George Bush, biannual talks between the US and Chinese officials focused exclusively on economic issues.

The new dialogue will see Hillary Clinton, US secretary of state and Tim Geithner, the treasury secretary, meeting once a year for talks with Dai Bingguo, the Chinese state councillor and Wang Qishan, the vice premier.

'Empty talk'

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Administration officials said the changes were being made to broaden the discussions between the two nations, but the announcement has been met with scepticism from some quarters.

Derek Scissors, a China expert at the Washington-based Heritage Foundation, told AFP news agency that the pledge to improve relations could be more about symbolism than substance.

"Until and unless this mechanism yields results, it will be another venue for empty talk," he said.

Scissors also doubted that a partnership would impact on the global economic crisis, saying that China continued to unfairly maintain a huge trade surplus rather than working with the United States.

The two leaders on Thursday also vowed to fight protectionism as means of tackling the economic downturn.

But a senior US official was quoted as saying that neither leader discussed China's recently expressed anxiety about its huge investments in the United States.

Currency concerns

The proposal by the head of the Chinese central bank, suggesting the dollar's status as the global reserve currency could be replaced by a new currency handled by the International Monetary Fund did not come up either, the official said.

Last week, Zhou Xiaochuan said a new global currency would give governments particularly in the developing world the ability to manage their economies more efficiently.

He also said the global financial crisis had exposed the danger of relying on one nation's currency for international payments.

But in a televised news conference last week, Obama dismissed calls for the creation of a new global currency, saying it is unnecessary because confidence in the dollar is "extraordinarily strong".