The Chinese prime minister Hu Jintao has come under pressure notably on human rights as he nears the end of his four-day state visit to the US.
At a meeting with leading politicians, he was also urged to take a stronger line on North Korea.
The Senate Majority leader ensured a few headlines of his own with his description of the Chinese leader on a local TV show.
“He is a dictator,” said Harry Reid of Hu Jintao. “He can do a lot of things – he, through the form of government they have. Maybe I shouldn’t have said dictator but they have a different type of government than we have and that’s an understatement.”
Hu Jintao told an audience of business executives that China was no menace to the west, either economically or militarily.
He said Beijing was “committed to the path of peaceful development”.
“We do not engage in an arms race or pose a military threat to any country. China will never seek to dominate or pursue an expansionist policy,” he said.
Once again the question of China’s exchange rate policy was raised: Beijing stands accused of substantially undervaluing its currency to make exports artificially cheap.
Two particular exports are rather more expensive. The giant pandas are on loan from China at Washington DC’s National Zoo. Their stay has just been extended for five more years in a deal worth 2.4 million euros.