Donald Trump says his “great chemistry” with Chinese president Xi Jinping will lead to the two men solving “world problems of great danger”.
“I believe we can solve almost all of them, and probably all of them,” Mr Trump said on Thursday.
He also said previous American administrations, not China, were to blame for the “very unfair” trade imbalance between China and the US.
After an official welcome with a military parade on Tiananmen Square and a meeting with Mr Trump to discuss North Korea and trade, Mr Xi said the two men had reached “many common understandings”.
“Cooperation is the only viable choice,” Mr Xi said in the Great Hall of the People.
Of interest to Australia, where foreign policy is being re-examined amid fear of potential conflict between China, Australia’s biggest trading partner, and the US, its traditional security backer, Mr Xi said he and Mr Trump had agreed that “China and the US are the key influence countries in the Asia Pacific.
“The Asia Pacific is large enough to embrace China and the US.”
Mr Trump, by contrast, used Washington’s preferred new terminology, the “Indo-Pacific”.
Donald Trump strolls with Xi Jinping during a welcome ceremony outside the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, on Thursday Photo: Bloomberg
The statements by the leaders of the world’s largest and second largest economies were televised in China, but no media questions were allowed.
Mr Xi said the US and China relationship “now stands at a new starting point”.
Mr Trump was effusive in his praise of his host, and highlighted their personal relationship, saying a scheduled quick 20-minute dinner the previous evening with Mr Xi and his wife, Peng Liyuan, at the Forbidden City had lasted two hours.
Mr Trump described their official meeting on Thursday morning as “excellent”, and said both he and Mr Xi “believe there is a solution” to North Korea.
He thanked China for cutting all banking ties with the rogue regime.
Mr Trump was expected to press China to cut an oil pipeline to North Korea, and had a day earlier called for China and Russia to sever all trade ties with North Korea, but there was no mention on Thursday about whether China had shown any interest in measures that went beyond UN Security Council sanctions.
This week China posted the second highest monthly trade surplus with the US on record, at US$26.6 billion.
Mr Trump faces growing calls from US industry to win greater access to Chinese markets, particularly for technology. US companies also complain that forced intellectual property transfers are routine in foreign joint ventures in China.
Mr Trump had campaigned for the presidency by accusing China of “raping our country” on trade.
But in Beijing, Mr Trump instead blamed previous White House incumbents for the “shocking” China trade imbalance.
“It is too bad that past administrations have allowed it to get so far out of kilter. But we’ll make it fair and it will be tremendous for both of us,” he said.
In a business ceremony attended by 29 US executives, memoranda of understanding with Chinese companies worth US$253.4 billion were announced in industries including vehicle parts, aircraft procurement, coal and shipping.
Mr Trump told the US business audience the deals were a good start but more concrete steps had to be taken: “We must immediately address the unfair trade practices as well as barriers to market success.”
He said intellectual property theft alone was costing US companies US$300 million a year. The US is investigating whether it can impose penalties on China on this issue.
But Mr Trump added: “I don’t blame China, after all who can blame a country for being able to take advantage of another country for the benefit of its citizens… I do blame past administrations.”
Mr Xi said Chinese companies had created 140,000 jobs in the US, and pointed out US car manufacturers had sold five million vehicles in China, making it their biggest market.
The structure of the Chinese economy was changing to focus on high quality growth, he said, and would reform state owned enterprises and keep opening up.
He said frictions in trade should be able to be solved in a friendly and consultative way.
Mr Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, seen by foreign policy observers as more enthusiastic about the Chinese economic relationship than China hawks who had previously urged Mr Trump to slap steep tariffs on Chinese goods, has accompanied him to Beijing.
Mr Trump made a single reference to “individual rights” and the “rule of law” in his final address on the day.
By Kirsty Needham