BEIJING - Chinese Foreign Ministry on Thursday confirmed it had started preparations for President Hu Jintao's visit to the United States early next year, which the ministry said would be profound and far-reaching for bilateral ties.
"China and the United States have maintained close communications about the visit, which will be very important and will bring far-reaching influence for bilateral relations in new era," spokesman Ma Zhaoxu told a regular press briefing.
Although Hu's US visit had long been under discussion, it was the first time that China's foreign ministry confirmed the visit and elaborated on its significance.
Ma said both China and the United States would like to see a successful visit that will boost the positive, cooperative and comprehensive China-US relationship in the 21st century.
At their meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Toronto in June, US President Barack Obama formally invited Hu to pay a state visit to the United States early next year. Hu accepted the invitation, Ma said.
The visit will be Hu's first state visit to the United States since the Obama administration took office.
His last state visit to the United States took place in April 2006.
"We agreed that we will work together to achieve tangible results in anticipation of the visit of President Hu to Washington in January 2011," US Attorney General Eric Holder said in Beijing Thursday.
Chinese analysts said the visit would be significant because it is expected to help address current issues and chart a path for the long-term bilateral ties.
"At such a crucial moment, Hu's visit will help reshape the China-US ties in future," said Yuan Peng, a scholar of the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations.
Relations between the two countries had stumbled earlier this year over issues ranging from US arms sales to Taiwan to China's currency exchange rate, said Qin Yaqing, deputy director of Chinese Foreign Affairs University.
"It is impossible for two presidents' meeting to iron out all the differences, but the meeting will enable presidents to elaborate on their stances for better mutual understanding," Qin said.
The past has proved that high-level visits could play a unique role in boosting China-US relations, Yuan said. "It always worked the things out at the critical time."
Yuan said Hu's visit was aimed at bringing the damaged China-US relations back on "healthy and stable" track.
"In months ahead of Hu's visit, the United States should be reasonable in dealing with issues like trade and economy and refrain from measures undermining bilateral ties," said Shi Yinhong, a professor of China's Renmin University.
Before their meeting in Washington next year, Hu and Obama are scheduled to meet on the sidelines of the G20 summit and Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation(APEC) leaders' gathering in November.