Mr Steinberg arrived in Beijing on Tuesday
Two senior US diplomats have begun meetings with Chinese officials over a wide range of issues, amid a series of high-profile disagreements.
The Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg and White House adviser Jeffrey Bader arrived in the Chinese capital on Tuesday.
They were greeted with calls by China to forgo further sanctions on Iran - a major US foreign policy goal.
The two powers have disagreed recently over Tibet, trade and Taiwan.
China was upset when US President Barack Obama met Tibet's spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama. It was also angered by Taiwan securing a weapons deal from the US.
The US has supported the internet search company Google in its concerns over censorship in China, and other trade rows persist.
However, Beijing did allow the visit of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz to Hong Kong last month.
One issue where China and US are in agreement is the need to bring North Korea back to the negotiating table over plans to end its nuclear programmes.
China has led the six-party talks - bringing together the two Koreas, China, the US, Russia and Japan - which its ally, North Korea cancelled last year.
South Korea's Foreign Minister, Yu Myung-hwan, reportedly said that the North Korean nuclear envoy Kim Kye Gwan would meet officials in the US next month.
The three-day visit comes ahead of a series of key meetings, including a global nuclear security summit in Washington in April, and the next round of Sino-US "Strategic and Economic Dialogue", which last took place in July 2009.
"If this (visit) suggests that we are refocusing on the future and the important issues that we can work on together, I think we are encouraged by this," State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said on Tuesday.
China was angered by President Obama's meeting with the Dalai Lama
"This is expressly why we sought this meeting - to be able to refocus on very specific issues, not the least of which is obviously our joint concerns about Iran," Mr Crowley said.
Chinese officials have repeatedly said in recent weeks that the blame for bilateral friction rests with Washington.
"The responsibility for the current difficulty in China-US relations goes completely to the US side," foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang told reporters on Tuesday.
"We hope the US side takes the Chinese position seriously."
"The Americans need to understand that the China-US relationship is like a car with two drivers," said Zhao Qizheng, a spokesman for the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, a legislative advisory body.
"China also has control over the steering wheel, the accelerator and the brake. The two drivers must consult with each other to drive the car, otherwise it will only spin around," he said.
The US diplomats will be going on to Japan on Thursday.