The US is this week holding top-level trade talks with a senior Chinese delegation in an effort to relax a record deficit between the two countries.
Wu Yi, one of four Chinese vice premiers, is leading the 16 cabinet-minister strong delegation, with finance minister Jin Renqing and central bank governor Zhou Xiaochuan also present.
US treasury secretary Henry Paulson is directing the two-day talks, which will include a visit to the White House and a banquet hosted by the country's secretary of state Condoleezza Rice.
The Bush administration's decision to pull out all the stops for China's impressive delegation – almost half of the entire cabinet – represents the government's wish to convince Beijing that it can no longer fend off pressure from Congress to address the $233 billion (£118 billion) trade gap between the two countries.
In the last year the US has lodged several complaints against China at the World Trade Organisation, claiming that the yuan is being undervalued against the dollar – keeping Chinese-made goods unfairly cheap.
The "strategic economic dialogue" between the world's largest economy and its fastest growing will be watched closely by governments worldwide.