President Donald Trump is making his first official visit to China amid regional tensions on trade and North Korea.
Mr Trump landed in Beijing on Wednesday following events in South Korea and is scheduled to meet multiple times with China’s President Xi Jinping during the two-day visit.
Mr Xi was due to treat Mr Trump to a lavish welcoming ceremony and tour of the Forbidden City, home to China’s ancient imperial palaces.
The visit comes hours after Mr Trump addressed South Korea’s National Assembly and pressured China to stop supporting North Korea.
Mr Trump made equalising trade with China a centrepiece of his presidential campaign, but he has signalled that he may ease up in exchange for China’s help with North Korea.
However Mr Trump arrived in Beijing on Wednesday amid mounting US trade complaints, with limited prospects for progress on market access, technology policy and other sore points.
The strains between the world’s two biggest economies are fuelling anxiety among global companies and advocates of free trade that they could retreat into protectionism, dragging down growth.
Washington accuses Beijing of backsliding on market-opening promises, and Mr Trump said last week that the US trade deficit with China – 347 billion dollars (£264bn) last year – is “so bad that it’s embarrassing.”
“I don’t want to embarrass anybody four days before I land in China, but it’s horrible,” said Mr Trump.
His government has raised import duties on Chinese aluminium foil, stainless steel and plywood, and is investigating whether Beijing improperly pressures foreign companies to hand over technology.
If they discuss trade during the two-day visit, Mr Xi’s government is unlikely to offer enough “to appease US negotiators,” said John Davies of BMI Research.
That is likely to lead to “more protectionist measures on the part of the US,” said Mr Davies.