UN chief Ban Ki-moon has pressed China's leaders to back tougher action to stop violence in Syria before a Security Council showdown over a resolution threatening sanctions.

Ban met Chinese President Hu Jintao in Beijing on Wednesday before the vote on the Western resolution that links the renewal of a UN mission in Syria with a threat to impose sanctions if the regime does not pull back heavy weapons.

But it will be a difficult task for the UN secretary-general to persuade Beijing, which has repeatedly warned against outside intervention in Syria, to back the action being pushed for by Western powers.

"The life of Syria's current political leadership can only be determined by  the Syrian people," said the People's Daily, in an editorial on Tuesday.

"This is an internal matter and the international community should respect that."

China, one of five veto-wielding members of the Security Council, has twice joined with President Bashar al-Assad's main ally Russia in blocking resolutions at the council.

Ban has already urged China to use its influence to back a peace plan by UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan, who is calling on the Security Council to order "consequences" for any failure to carry out his six-point plan.

The current 90-day UN mission in Syria ends on Friday and if no resolution is passed by then, it would have to shut down this weekend, according to diplomats.

Ban, who is officially in Beijing for a China-Africa summit, has said that international inaction on Syria would be giving "a licence for further massacres".

Following talks with Hu, Ban will also meet Vice-President Xi Jinping, who is set to become China's president next year - as well as top foreign policy adviser Dai Bingguo and Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, diplomats said.