Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg arrived in Beijing Tuesday, to begin the first talks since relations soured because of a range of issues from cyber-spying to trade.
A U.S. Embassy spokesman in Beijing says Steinberg will discuss a range of bilateral issues, including China's stance toward Iran over its nuclear development program.
"There's a lot of issues out there that we're talking to the Chinese on, and Iran is just one of them. But, of course, our relationship is very comprehensive and very complex," he said.
With Russia now saying it is ready to consider tougher sanctions against Tehran, Washington is eager to get Beijing to do likewise.
However, the deputy secretary of state might have to work hard to start the thaw in the currently icy relations between Beijing and Washington.
Hours before his arrival, China - which is one of five veto-wielding permanent members of the United Nations Security Council - staunchly repeated its belief that diplomacy was still the best way forward.
China is still smarting about a range of disputes, including American arms sales to Taiwan and President Barack Obama's recent meeting with the Dali Lama.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang reiterated Tuesday that Beijing holds the United States responsible for damaging relations and says it is up to Washington to patch things up.
He says China demands the U.S. side seriously treat Beijing's concerns with respect on issues such as Tibet and human rights.
He says the Chinese should not bear the responsibility for the strained ties and is urging Washington to respect Chinese core interests.
From China, the deputy secretary of state will travel on to Tokyo, with talks on bilateral issues with Japanese government officials.