- Associated Press - Friday, August 28, 2015

BEIJING (AP) - The U.S. national security adviser met with President Xi Jinping on Friday amid final preparations for the Chinese leader’s visit to Washington next month, with both sides expressing optimism despite their differences.

Susan Rice’s visit to Beijing comes as China is dealing with fallout from a sharply sliding stock market and slowing economic growth that have rattled global markets. A move to devalue its currency and make Chinese exports more competitive has brought criticism from some U.S. politicians, in a throwback to past years when Beijing was accused of manipulating its currency.

The economic setbacks are seen as weakening Xi’s clout as he prepares to meet with President Barack Obama at the White House in late September and address the U.N. General Assembly in New York.

Neither Xi nor Rice mentioned the economic turmoil in their opening remarks, focusing instead on the importance of Xi’s visit to strengthening relations between the world’s first and second largest economies.

“I look forward to continuing my conversation with President Obama, to continue to have in-depth exchanges on important issues of mutual interest, and together we would like to work with the U.S. side to make sure that China-U.S. relations will enjoy sustainable and steady growth,” Xi told Rice.

Xi also spoke of the need to “effectively manage the sensitive issues” between Washington and Beijing but offered no specifics.

In her comments, Rice referred to “issues of difference and some difficulty” that the sides “need to work through and we will continue to do so.” She called Xi’s upcoming trip a “milestone in deepening our cooperation and strengthening our relationship.”

In an earlier meeting with senior foreign policy adviser Yang Jiechi, Rice pointed to progress in areas ranging from climate change to tourist exchanges, the military relationship and cooperation in fighting the Ebola virus. She said both sides are looking forward to a successful meeting in Washington.

Yang said China is eager to ensure the trip is a “complete success.”

Rice also met with Fan Changlong, a vice chairman of the Central Military Commission, and Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

While China’s more assertive foreign policy under Xi has raised concerns among U.S. military leaders and the two countries have been at odds over Internet security, Xi and Obama have forged a strong working relationship as a result of frequent meetings.

Xi hosted Obama in Beijing in November, during which the sides announced a landmark agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and other moves to boost relations.

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