WASHINGTON — President Obama on Wednesday gently but pointedly prodded China to make progress on human rights, but he sought to focus most of the attention during a closely watched state visit with President Hu Jintao on the expanding economic relationship between the United States and its biggest economic rival. bemoan the fact that they had to run home to change into formal dress for the dinner at the White House — a not-so-subtle reminder that this was only the second-hottest social ticket of the day. Mr. Obama said that differences on human rights were an “occasional source of tension between our two governments.” As the two leaders stood side by side at a nationally televised news conference, he called on China to live up to human rights values that he said were enshrined in the Chinese Constitution, adding that Americans “have some core views as Americans about the universality of certain rights: freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of assembly.”
Mr. Hu, for his part, seemed to hearten White House officials by acknowledging that China had a ways to go on human rights issues. “China still faces many challenges in economic and social development,” he said. “And a lot still needs to be done in China in terms of human rights.” But he noted that China was willing to talk to the United States only within the confines of the “principle of noninterference in each other’s internal affairs.”
Administration officials said the human rights discussion continued in private as well, illustrating how a visit marked by public displays of pomp and harmony belied a more fractious relationship over matters that included North Korea and the Chinese currency. They said Mr. Obama pressed Mr. Hu specifically on China’s imprisonment of its Nobel laureate, Liu Xiaobo, during a private dinner at the White House on Tuesday night and a larger session between the leaders and their delegations on Wednesday.
As always with state visits, there was a healthy dose of rainmaking. The White House, for instance, announced that the two countries had made business deals that the president said would generate $45 billion in American exports. Officials said that China had also agreed to take additional steps that would curtail the theft of intellectual property and expand the opportunities for American investment in China.
Calling for the two countries to “break out of the old stereotypes that somehow China is simply taking manufacturing jobs and taking advantage of low wages,” Mr. Obama said during a meeting with Mr. Hu and American and Chinese business leaders that it was important for American companies to be allowed into China’s vast marketplace. The relationship between the powers, he said, must be “much more complex” than one in which America functions simply as a market for Chinese products.
Mr. Hu’s visit is giving Mr. Obama a rich opportunity to strengthen ties between the White House and the American business community after a year in which relations had soured. With the arrival last week of Mr. Obama’s new chief of staff, William M. Daley, the former Clinton administration commerce secretary, the White House has sought to turn Mr. Hu’s visit into a kind of trade show for American companies.
In a significant concession, China agreed to scrap a policy that favored Chinese technology companies for big government contracts, a senior administration official said. American companies complained that the policy, known as “indigenous innovation,” cut them out of one of China’s most lucrative markets.
Among the deals announced on Wednesday morning was one in which the Chinese government authorized Chinese companies to buy 200 airplanes from Boeing, worth $19 billion. The Obama administration also announced railway and energy contracts for General Electric and a joint venture between Honeywell and Haier, a Chinese appliance maker. All told, administration officials claimed that these deals would support 235,000 jobs in 12 states, but the precise status of each deal was unknown.
A senior official cited a deal in which Cummins Inc. would build hybrid buses in China, but a spokesman for the company later said that “neither Cummins nor Yutong has announced any deal and we’re not in a position to do so at this time,” referring to the company’s Chinese partner.
W. James McNerney Jr., Boeing’s chief executive, said the meeting between the business leaders and the two presidents was constructive. “Our political leadership was trying to create an environment where business leadership offered their views,” he said in an interview after the meeting. Mr. McNerney said he and the other American business executives spent an hour together preparing themselves before the two presidents came into the room. Once they did, both American and Chinese executives, he said, pressed for better access to the other’s respective markets.
Mr. McNerney, who said he was thrilled with the aircraft order, said that final assembly of the planes — all 737s and 777s — would be done in the United States.
In a joint statement issued by the two sides, which came after protracted negotiations, the United States and China found some common ground on the nuclear threat from North Korea. The statement called for dialogue between North and South Korea, something the Obama administration had pushed, rather than an immediate resumption of multilateral negotiations with North Korea that China had backed. And for the first time, officials said, China “expressed concern” about the North’s recently disclosed uranium-enrichment plant.
Confronting another source of tension, Mr. Hu spoke of the need to have better relations between the two militaries. American officials worry about an increasingly defiant and independent Chinese military. The two sides pledged better communication between the Pentagon and the People’s Liberation Army, including a visit to Washington by China’s top general, Chen Bingde.
As part of the emphasis on more face-to-face meetings, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. also accepted an invitation from Mr. Hu to visit Beijing this year.
But the visit has also had glitches — both private and public. Several administration officials characterized the tone of the private meetings as stilted and formal, and said Mr. Hu often read from prepared texts. Protesters dogged Mr. Hu around Washington, appearing at the White House, the State Department and outside the Chinese Embassy, demanding an end to what they said was persecution of religious minorities and Tibet.
The news conference with the two leaders came at the midpoint in a long and exhausting day for the two men that was packed with ceremony, from the fife-and-drum band that greeted Mr. Hu on the White House lawn to a state lunch hosted by Mr. Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to a full state dinner at the White House.
In fact, Wednesday’s morning events ran so late that Mr. Hu ended up leaving the state lunch — where he was served fillet of Alaskan cod — just two hours before he was due at the state dinner. At the lunch, Mr. Hu was serenaded by the cellists Yo-Yo Ma and Joshua Roman, who played an abbreviated program that included a traditional hymn, “Dona Nobis Pacem,” and a Chinese song, “Summer in the High Grassland.”
Among some in the audience, the lateness of the hour gave them a chance to