Chinese President Xi Jinping Tuesday held talks with visiting US Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew, marking his first meeting with a foreign dignitary since taking office last week.
Observers said the Sino-US relationship, which has undergone significant changes over the past decade, now faces great challenges in breaking its stereotype as an unavoidable zero-sum game between two big powers.
Ruan Zongze, a deputy director of the China Institute of International Studies, regarded the meeting as a friendly gesture made by China, which underscores the importance of Sino-US relations.
Reuters quoted an unidentified US official as saying that the meeting was a 45-minute strategic-level discussion of major issues on the bilateral agenda including currencies, the European and world economies, intellectual property, cyber security and North Korea, in which Lew was "candid and direct."
While noting China and the US have a seamless connection and many shared interests, Xi also admitted that the two sides have some differences, which should be properly handled.
For his part, Lew said both countries had a responsibility to promote global growth, and called on China to boost domestic demand to help in global rebalancing.
Xi inherits a Sino-US relationship that is far more "critical" and "complex" than that of a decade ago, said analysts.
Niu Xinchun, a researcher with the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, told the Global Times that the trade volume, level of interdependency and exchanges between the two sides 10 years ago were nothing in comparison to what they are today, stressing the importance of China-US relations to the region and the world.
According to Niu, the US policy was to engage China with the goal of integrating it into the international system, which was accomplished in 2005.
Ruan told the Global Times that the global financial crisis of 2008 was a "game-changer" that saw the US economy stagger while China rose to become the second-largest economy in the world.
"Under such circumstances, the US needs a scapegoat for its problems. Disputes with China, such as currency and cyber security, all originate from the insecurity felt by the US," he said.
The US pivot to the Asia-Pacific region mainly focused on the security front during former US secretary of state Hillary Clinton's tenure. Washington sided with some countries during this time in their territorial disputes with China, leading to growing strategic distrust between the two powers.
Xi said at the meeting that the two countries should work together to build a cooperative partnership and a new type of relationship between big powers.
The term "new type of relationship between big powers" has been a catchphrase used by the two sides, although neither side has given any definition as to what such a relationship entails.
Niu said it recognized China and the US as competitors, with competition surrounding strategic trust between the two sides. "In other words, the competition is not a zero-sum game. The goal of the competition is not to destabilize the other side," he said.
Thomas Donilon, a national security adviser in the Obama administration, made similar remarks earlier this month, saying he disagrees with the premise that a rising power and an established power are destined to conflict.
Ruan said forging a "new type of relationship" requires the US to drop its skepticism and commanding position over China in order to seek cooperation.
In addition to the strategic discussion, Xi and Lew also agreed on the important role of the Strategic and Economic Dialogue set to take place in the US this summer.
Lew also held talks with Xu Shaoshi, director of the National Development and Reform Commission, and finance minister Lou Jiwei.
Reuters contributed to this story