President Obama today extended a warm Oval Office welcome to the man many believe will be the future leader of China, current Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping.
The highly choreographed and symbolic moment signaled the importance the administration places on a relationship with Xi for maintaining strong U.S.-China ties.
"A cooperative relationship, based on mutual interests and mutual respect, is not only in the interests of the United States and China, but is also in the interests of the region and in the interests of the United States - in the interests of the world," said Obama, who was seated beside Xi before a phalanx of reporters.
The president tacitly acknowledged longstanding social and economic tensions between the two nations but insisted both sides have committed to managing them through constructive dialogue.
"Throughout this process, I have always emphasized that we welcome China's peaceful rise, that we believe that a strong and prosperous China is one that can help to bring stability and prosperity to the region and to the world," Obama said. "And we expect to be able to continue on the cooperative track that we've tried to establish over the last three years."
In a nod to longstanding concerns about China's currency policy and human rights record, Obama also reiterated a message to Xi he's offered other Chinese leadership before: " With expanding power and prosperity also comes increased responsibilities," he said.
"We want to work with China to make sure that everybody is working by the same rules of the road when it comes to the world economic system. And that includes ensuring that there is a balanced trade flow between not only the United States and China but around the world," said Obama.
"It also means that on critical issues like human rights, we will continue to emphasize what we believe is the importance of recognizing the aspirations and rights of all people."
The administration has billed the Chinese Vice President's visit as an "investment in the future" aimed at broadening his understanding of the U.S., and allow Americans to get to know him.
It follows Vice President Joe Biden's visit to China in August, when he spent more than 10 hours with Xi in formal and informal settings. Officials have said they sought to reciprocate the hospitality.
Xi will visit Iowa and California later this week.