Chinese President Hu Jintao doesn't arrive in Washington until Tuesday, but that hasn't stopped lawmakers, pundits and other advocates from speculating on the messages to be gleaned from the upcoming talks.
After a challenging 2010 for the two nations, no doubt more than a handful of hot-button issues -- from pollution to economy to the ongoing row over jailed Nobel Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo -- are ripe for discussion, which has been highlighted by unusually frank commentary from senior U.S. officials.
Scheduled for Wednesday, Hu's long-awaited White House summit with President Obama will mark the eighth meeting between the two leaders, and it will be followed by a joint press conference during which the media will have unprecedented access to the usually press-shy Chinese leader. Later that day, Hu will reportedly attend a state dinner hosted by Obama, the first for a Chinese leader in 13 years.
See what Hu Jintao is expected to discuss with President Obama here:
Human rights is expected to be high on the list of topics, and Hu's visit to Washington is especially delicate as Obama's successor as Nobel peace laureate Liu Xiaobo is in a Chinese prison after calling for democratic reforms. Washington has sharply criticized his detention and praised the Nobel committee for honoring him -- provoking a furious Chinese reaction.
Economic issues will loom large at the summit and are a source of both deepening ties and friction. According to Reuters, the ballooning U.S. trade deficit with China is expected to hit $270 billion this year. The two countries blame each other for causing problems in international commerce.
From the iPhone to new solar panels, the U.S. still leads in developing new technology. China reportedly wants in on the innovation process in America, which is more open and streamlined. Hu has spoken about getting his country's investors more access to American markets and products before.
U.S.-China cooperation on energy which has been strained of late -- will be a major topic of discussion, U.S. Energy Department officials have said. The meeting comes amid simmering tensions over China's green-energy trade practices, which are under investigation by the Office of the United States Trade Representative.
Undoubtedly the touchiest issue at stake is North Korea. The U.S. has been pushing China, North Korea's only major ally and financial backer, for more help persuading Pyongyang to abandon nuclear weapons and avoid potentially destabilizing actions like the North's bombarding of a South Korean island two months ago.