Chinese President Hu Jintao has acknowledged that “a lot still needs to be done” in China over human rights.
Mr Hu was speaking at a rare joint news conference with US President Barack Obama on the first full day of his state visit to the US.
Asked to justify China’s human rights record, Mr Hu said China had “made enormous progress recognized in the world”.
Mr Obama said he saw China’s “peaceful rise” as good for the United States.
“The US has an interest in seeing hundreds of millions of people lifted out of poverty,” Mr Obama said.
Earlier, the US president hailed relations with China, saying the two countries have a huge stake in each other’s success.
At a White House ceremony to greet Mr Hu, he said the US and China would be more prosperous and secure when they worked together.
Mr Hu said co-operation should be based on mutual respect, and they should respect each other’s development paths.
The two leaders’ talks at the White House tackled issues from currency and trade to defence and security.
US officials revealed that a $45bn (£28bn) export deal had been signed with China, including Beijing’s $19bn purchase of 200 Boeing aircraft.
Mr Obama said the deals would help create more than 200,000 jobs in the US.