AFP – Beijing and Washington have “enormous shared interests”, China’s new President Xi Jinping told the US Treasury chief on Tuesday in his first major diplomatic encounter since taking office.

“In the China-US relationship, we have enormous shared interests, but of course, unavoidably, we have some differences,” Xi said to Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.

Xi, who became head of state last week, added that both countries would derive mutual benefit if they “approach and handle this relationship from a strategic and long-term perspective”.

Lew’s visit to Beijing comes amid rising tensions between the countries following US allegations that China has engaged in hacking against US companies, which Washington warned could damage relations.

A report last month from US security firm Mandiant said a unit of China’s People’s Liberation Army had stolen hundreds of terabytes of data from at least 141 organisations, mostly based in the United States.

China has steadfastly denied the allegations and says that it is a regular victim of cyberattacks, with the defence ministry saying the Mandiant report had “no factual basis”.

During his two-day visit, Lew plans to press China on cybersecurity issues at his meetings with the country’s new leadership, a senior US administration official said Friday in Washington.

Other issues were expected to include China’s economic reforms as well as the country’s currency, the yuan, which Washington still considers to be undervalued, the official told reporters on condition of anonymity.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Xi said that in three decades of diplomatic ties between Beijing and Washington, “we have indeed traversed an extraordinary course and achieved bountiful fruits”.

Lew congratulated Xi on assuming the presidency at China’s annual National People’s Congress, and stressed the important role played by the two countries in the global economy.

“As the world’s two largest economies the United States and China have a responsibility to maintain strong, stable and sustained growth in the world,” he said.

“And we look forward to China contributing more and more to global demand.”

Their remarks came at the beginning of the meeting, which was briefly open to reporters and attended by key aides from both countries as well as US ambassador Gary Locke.

Xi became China’s president on Thursday, concluding a once-in-a-decade transfer of power in China that formally began with him taking the reins of the Communist Party in November.

US President Barack Obama telephoned Xi last week to congratulate him, but also mentioned the importance of addressing cybersecurity threats, which he said represent “a shared challenge”.

The administration official who talked to reporters last week suggested Lew would be taking a tougher stance on the issue during his visit.