Hillary Clinton has called for a deeper US-China partnership, on her first overseas tour as US secretary of state.
Co-operation between the US and China on global issues such as the economy and climate change was "imperative", said Mrs Clinton in Beijing.
She said that these would take precedence over points of friction between the two governments, such as human rights and Tibet.
Her Asian tour has included stops in Japan, Indonesia and South Korea.
Mrs Clinton was due to meet President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao later on Saturday for wide-ranging talks on the global economy, climate change and North Korea.
"We want to deepen and broaden our relationship," she said at a news conference with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi.
"We believe we have established a solid foundation, but there is much work to be done.
"It is in our view imperative that the United States and China co-operate on a range of issues from the economy to global climate change to development and so much else."
Mr Yang said the two nations were facing "a series of major and pressing" challenges.
"The larger situation requires our two countries to strengthen dialogue... and work together to elevate our relationship to a new level," he added.
The two held talks lasting almost two hours.
Afterwards, Mr Yang said the discussions had been constructive and produced positive results, with both countries agreeing to take steps to tackle the financial crisis and reject protectionism.
Mrs Clinton said they had focused on the global financial crisis, climate change and security issues including North Korea.
Asked whether she had raised the issue of human rights, Mrs Clinton said she had held candid discussions on the subject with Mr Yang, the BBC's James Reynolds in China says.
Mr Yang said the two sides saw the subject differently, our correspondent says, but he stressed that China did respect human rights.
Shortly before arriving in Beijing, Mrs Clinton said that the debate with China over human rights, Taiwan and Tibet should not interfere with attempts to reach consensus on broader issues.
"Our pressing on those issues (human rights, Taiwan and Tibet) can't interfere with the global economic crisis, the global climate change crisis and the security crises," she said.
"We have to have a dialogue that leads to an understanding and co-operation on each of those."
On the economy, Mrs Clinton sought to reassure China that its massive holdings of US treasury notes would remain a good investment.
"I appreciate greatly the Chinese government's continuing confidence in United States treasuries. I think this is well-grounded confidence," she said.
Mrs Clinton also stressed the importance of dealing with climate change with China, which has overtaken the US as the world's leading emitter of greenhouse gases.
The subject of North Korea, and attempts to get six-party talks on Pyongyang's nuclear programme back on track, are also high on the agenda for Mrs Clinton in Beijing.
China is seen as Pyongyang's closest ally and the country most likely to influence the hard-line communist country's rulers.
Speaking earlier in the South Korean capital Seoul, Mrs Clinton urged North Korea to hold talks with the South and end its nuclear ambitions.