|Xi Jinping, third left, is expected to succeed Hu Jintao as Chinese president in 2013 [EPA]
US Vice President Joe Biden has launched his visit to China by stressing the importance of strong US-China relations in maintaining a stable global economy.
"I would suggest that there is no more important relationship that we need to establish on the part of the US than a close relationship with China," Biden said on Thursday ahead of talks with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, who is expected to succeed President Hu Jintao in 2013.
"I am absolutely confident that the economic stability of the world rests in no small part on cooperation between the US and China."
The comments were made during a welcome ceremony in Beijing to mark the beginning of Biden's five-day visit .
"Our commitment to establishing a close and a serious relationship with the people of China is of the utmost importance to my country," Biden told Xi. "It is my fond hope that our personal relationship can grow."
Xi told Biden that China and the US shared extensive common interests and responsibilities. "We would like to work with your country to promote the development of relations between our two great nations," he said.
Biden's visit is aimed partly at building ties with the expected next leader of the world's second-biggest economy, who remains virtually unknown in US policy circles.
Chinese media said the debt crisis, the value of China's currency and US weapons sales to Taiwan would be the top items on the agenda for the visit.
Taiwan weapons sales
The China Daily reported that US arms sales to the island, which Beijing considers part of Chinese territory, were the biggest source of disagreement.
"The US has shown increasing concern over China's growing global influence and a new round of arms sales to Taiwan is brewing in Washington," said an editorial in the English-language newspaper.
The United States is expected to decide by October whether to sell F-16 fighter jets to Taipei, a step promoted by US lawmakers but strongly opposed by Beijing. Biden's aides said he did not plan to speak to China about Taiwan.
Biden, who attended a friendly basketball game between a Chinese team and the Georgetown University Hoyas after landing in Beijing on Wednesday, will use the visit to try to build a rapport with Xi.
Biden is also due to meet Wu Bangguo, China's parliamentary chief, later Thursday, and will hold talks with Hu and Wen Jiabao, the Chinese premier, on Friday before travelling to the southwestern boomtown of Chengdu.
His trip comes amid growing concern in the US about China's human rights record.
On Wednesday the US renewed an appeal to China to free prominent rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng, who defended some of China's most vulnerable people including Christians and coal miners and was convicted in 2006 on subversion charges.
The lawyer was given a three-year suspended sentence and placed under house arrest but has not been heard of since last year.