BEIJING -- President Barack Obama announced Monday a deal to extend visas for Chinese nationals going to the United States to work or study, insisting he wants China "to do well" despite simmering tensions between the world's two largest economies.
"The United States welcomes the rise of a prosperous, peaceful and stable China," Obama said in a speech at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Beijing.
But he urged China to free up its markets and its tightly controlled exchange rate, and respect human rights and media freedoms.
The visa deal will see student and exchange visas extended to five years, with business and tourist visas' validity stretched out to a decade.
There were 1.8 million Chinese visitors to the U.S. last year, Obama said, contributing $21 billion to the economy and supporting more than 100,000 jobs.
"This agreement could help us more than quadruple those numbers," he said, describing it as an "important breakthrough which will benefit our economies, bring our people together."
"I'm pleased that President Xi has been a partner in getting this done."
One senior U.S. official called the agreement "a really big win" and "a really big deal for the economy."
But Obama arrives in China wounded from the Democrats' losses in the mid-term elections, and amid heightened tensions with Russia, whose President Vladimir Putin is also visiting.
Relations between Washington and Beijing are often tense, with territorial issues, rights and markets regular bones of contention.
"We look to China to create a more level playing field on which foreign companies are treated fairly," he said, adding the U.S. was looking to China to "move definitively toward a more market-determined exchange rate and, yes, to stand up for human rights and freedom of the press".
"We don't suggest these things because they are good for us," he said, adding he would raise the issues in his meetings with Chinese leader Xi Jinping.
"We suggest that China do these things for the sake of sustainable growth in China and the stability of the Asia-Pacific region."
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2014