19 Jan 2011

Chinese president begins US visit

9:39 pm on 19 January 2011

Chinese President Hu Jintao has begun a four-day visit to the United States with a rare private dinner at the White House with President Barack Obama.

The visit is considered the most important by a Chinese leader in 30 years given China's growing military, economic and diplomatic clout.

Talks between Mr Hu and Mr Obama are expected to focus on currency controls, trade disputes, human rights and North Korea's nuclear activities.

The BBC reports relations have been strained on issues such as the value of the yuan, the huge trade gap, human rights and US arms sales to Taiwan. The US is also concerned by China's growing military strength.

On Wednesday by Mr Obama will hold talks with Mr Hu in the Oval Office, followed by a state dinner. The Chinese leader will also travel to Chicago.

Before Mr Hu's arrival in the US, a Chinese trade mission signed six deals with US companies in Houston worth $US600 million.

Trade between the US and China is worth $US400 billion, up from $US100 million 30 years ago, when the US formalised relations with the communist state.

China's foreign ministry called Mr Hu's visit "an important one".