Critics say China still represses human rights
The United States and China are holding talks on human rights for the first time in two years.
Senior officials are meeting behind closed doors for two days in Washington.
The US has said it will raise longstanding concerns over freedom of expression and religion in China, as well as the treatment of dissidents.
Disagreements over human rights have for years been an irritant in US-China relations.
The Obama administration is under pressure from human rights groups to demand that China improve its treatment of its citizens.
But it is also anxious not to damage relations with a crucial political and economic partner.
The head of the US delegation, Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights Michael Posner, said the US would not shy away from raising difficult issues.
"The challenge is to find a way to communicate differences respectfully but directly" he said.
The talks come at a sensitive time for relations between the US and China.
Ties have been strained by US arms sales to Taiwan and president Obama's meeting with the Dalai Lama, as well as trade disputes and a row over internet censorship.