Before heading to the Chinese capital, Obama will hold a town hall-style meeting in Shanghai with several hundred local students - a format often used by the president on the campaign trail and in his first year in office.
'Source of strength'
In a speech on US policy towards Asia in Tokyo on Saturday, Obama said the United States welcomed China's rising political and economic clout, saying that the " rise of a strong, prosperous China can be a source of strength for the community of nations."
|Obama in meeting regional leaders
on a nine-day tour of Asia [AFP]
"The United States does not seek to contain China, nor does a deeper relationship with China mean a weakening of our bilateral alliances," he said.
But Obama and Hu will inevitably face a number of sensitive issues when they meet for talks on Tuesday.
Trade tensions, an ongoing row over the value of the Chinese currency, the yuan, and efforts to combat global warming are some of the many issues expected to come up.
On trade, Washington has angered China in recent months by imposing tariffs on Chinese tyres and preliminary duties on some steel products, moves Beijing has labelled as protectionist.
The US president is expected to urge China to reconsider the value of the yuan, which has been pegged to the dollar since July 2008, when the global economic crisis hit export markets for Chinese-made goods.
Environmental activists are also hoping that Obama and Hu, whose countries are the world's top two emitters of greenhouse gases, will reach some kind of climate change deal before global talks in Copenhagen next month.
But that seems unlikely after Asia-Pacific leaders said in Singapore that they would not reach a binding pact in the Danish capital.
Obama has also said he will raise human rights issues with Beijing, but said he would do it without "rancour".