SHANGHAI (NEWSnet/AP) — U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken raised what the U.S. describes as unfair Chinese trade practices during his first full day of meetings in China on Thursday with local government officials in the financial hub of Shanghai.

Blinken met with the city’s top official, Communist Party Secretary Chen Jining, and “raised concerns about (Chinese) trade policies and non-market economic practices,” the State Department said in a statement.

It said he stressed that the United States seeks healthy economic competition with China and “a level playing field for U.S. workers and firms operating in China.”

“The two sides reaffirmed the importance of ties between the people of the United States and (China), including the expansion of exchanges between students, scholars, and business,” it said.

China’s multibillion-dollar trade surplus with the U.S. along with accusations of intellectual property theft and other practices seen as discriminating against U.S. businesses in China have long been a source of friction in relations.

China, for its part, has objected strongly to U.S. accusations of human rights abuses and Washington’s support for Taiwan, the self-governing island that Beijing considers its own territory and warns could be annexed by force.

Asked about Blinken’s comments, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said China has “always conducted economic and trade cooperation in accordance with market principles, firmly supported the multilateral trading system, and fully complied with the rules of the World Trade Organization.”

“We hope the U.S. will also earnestly respect the principle of fair competition, abide by the WTO rules, and work with China to create favorable conditions for the sound and stable development of China-U.S. economic and trade relations,” Wang told reporters at a daily briefing.

Blinken also spoke with students and business leaders before flying to Beijing for what are expected to be contentious talks with national officials, including Foreign Minister Wang Yi and possibly President Xi Jinping.

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