President Obama met with the man who is expected to be the next leader of China on Tuesday.
In welcoming China's presidential heir apparent, Vice President Xi Jinping, President Obama simultaneously assured an ally and prodded a superpower rival.
"With expanding power and prosperity also comes increased responsibilities," Mr. Obama said.
Vice President Biden and Secretary of State Clinton publicly pressured Xi on areas of that have stressed the uneasy alliance, from China's undervalued currency and tilted trade practices to theft of intellectual property.
The administration pushed even harder on China's unwillingness to help halt the brutal crackdown in Syria and on China's own human rights record at home.
Outside the White House protesters tried to turn the spotlight away from the Washington photo opps to China's harsh treatment of Tibet.
After being pressed by the Obama administration Xi responded diplomatically.
"Of course there is always room for improvement on human rights," he said.
Xi suggested he was open to change and pointed to a Monday night meeting he had with senior U.S. lawmakers.
"Their wise and practical suggestions have provided me with much food for thought," he said.
In addition to Washington and Los Angeles Xi will be traveling to Muscatine, Iowa, a town he visited on a cultural exchange back in 1985.