The difficulties in relations, particularly in human rights issues, were underscored by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who described Beijing's rights record as "deplorable" in a magazine interview. China's current crackdown on dissent, she said, amounted to "a fool's errand".
But on economic matters, officials were upbeat after talks.
"We are seeing very promising shifts in the direction of Chinese economic policy," U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said.
The annual Strategic and Economic Dialogue yielded more results on economic issues than some analysts had expected, although many remained skeptical China's market-opening vows would translate into concrete benefits for U.S. business.
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When I first heard China call the United States out on some of its own problems with human rights and discrimination, I was euphoric. Finally, a superpower who can stand up to the United States! But it's clear to me now that this is the same situation as the Cold War, where both sides go back and forth calling each other names and things progress as usual, if not slower, just so one side doesn't lose face. Case in point, it looks like China's going to stand firm with this yuan reevaluation stuff for a while, because there's no way Xi Jinping is going to "back down" to the US within the first three years of his presidency.