Marine General Peter Pace, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, came to China to try to boost military ties between the two countries.
U.S. officials say this is the best way to build confidence at a time when China's rapid military buildup is causing concern in Washington.
China has raised new U.S. suspicions, first by testing an anti-satellite weapon in January, then by announcing this month that it is boosting its military budget in 2007 by close to 18%, to nearly 45 billion dollars.
Pace told reporters here Friday that he mentioned the anti-satellite test when pressing the Chinese to make their military matters more transparent.
"I used the example of the anti-satellite test as how sometimes the international community can be confused, because it was a surprise that China did that. And, it wasn't clear what their intent was, and when things are not clear, and when there are surprises, it tends to confuse people and raise suspicions."
He said the Chinese offered no new information on the test, in which a ground-based missile destroyed an aging Chinese satellite.
Washington has repeatedly said it does not see China as a military threat, but it wants Beijing to be more open on how it is spending its rapidly rising military budget. Pace said the size of the budget itself is not the problem.
"It is not so important what the exact number is. It's important what capacities are being built, and why and what do we understand with each other, about how that's being spent."
A major U.S. concern is that China might attack Taiwan, which Beijing considers a part of its territory, and has vowed to re-take - by force if necessary.
On Friday, Pace said it would be useful to set up a telephone hotline between Beijing and Washington, to help avoid potential conflicts. T
he general also said the two sides talked about educational exchanges, including a Chinese proposal to send Chinese cadets to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.