Managing the rivalry between their two countries is sure to be a concern for US President Barack Obama, fresh from an election win, and China’s president-in-waiting Xi Jinping.
Economics play a major role in the relationship, with the US – still the world’s largest economy -unable to balance trade with China.
Perhaps worryingly for Washington, China’s economy will overtake America’s in the next four years, according to the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
Beijing has been accused of deliberately keeping the currency weak in order to flood the world with inexpensive imports.
Goods manufactured cheaply in the Asian country’s factories undercut costs in other countries.
Keen to stress the value of their economic ties, Xi said: “Our commitment to developing the China-US cooperative partnership should never waiver in the face of passing developments.”
Obama highlighted his tough approach to what are seen as unfair practices by China.
“I set up a trade task force, to go after cheaters when it came to international trade. That’s the reason why we have brought more cases against China for violating trade rules than the previous administration had done in two terms. And we won just about every case that we filed, that has been decided,” said the US President.
The dispute between China and Japan over the islands referred to as Diaoyu by Beijing and Senkaku by Tokyo, is also threatening to sour the relationship between the US and China.
America is a key ally of Japan, which has seen a number of Chinese protests directed against it.
At the moment, one of the largest-ever joint training exercises between U.S. and Japanese troops is underway in and around the Japanese home islands.
However, the future may be bright with both Obama and Xi speaking about a desire to improve ties.