US secretary of state Antony Blinken has met Chinese President Xi Jinping and said they agreed to “stabilise” badly deteriorated US-China ties, but America’s top diplomat left Beijing without securing better communication between their militaries.

Mr Blinken said Beijing is not ready to resume military-to-military contact, which Washington considers crucial to avoid miscalculation and conflict, particularly over Taiwan.

But the two men pronounced themselves satisfied with progress during the two days of talks, without pointing to specific areas of agreement beyond a mutual decision to return to a broad agenda for cooperation and competition endorsed last year by Mr Xi and President Joe Biden at a summit in Bali.

It remained unclear if those understandings can resolve their most important disagreements, many of which have international implications, but both men said they were pleased with the outcome of the highest-level US visit to China in five years.

The two sides expressed a willingness to hold more talks, but there was little indication that either is prepared to bend from positions on issues including trade, Taiwan, human rights conditions in China and Hong Kong, Chinese military assertiveness in the South China Sea, and Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Mr Blinken said later that the US set limited objectives for the trip and achieved them. He told reporters that he had raised the issue of military-to-military communications “repeatedly”.

“It is absolutely vital that we have these kinds of communications,” he said. “This is something we’re going to keep working on.”

The US has said that, since 2021, China has declined or failed to respond to more than a dozen requests from the Department of Defence for top-level dialogues.

According to a transcript of the meeting with Mr Blinken, Mr Xi said he was pleased with the outcome of earlier meetings with Chinese diplomats and said restarting the Bali agenda was of great importance.

“The Chinese side has made our position clear, and the two sides have agreed to follow through the common understandings President Biden and I had reached in Bali,” Mr Xi said.

That agenda had been thrown into jeopardy in recent months, notably after the US shot down a Chinese surveillance balloon over its air space in February, and amid escalated military activity in the Taiwan Strait and the South China Sea.

Combined with other disputes over human rights, trade and opiate production, the list of problem areas is daunting, but Mr Xi suggested the worst could be over.

“The two sides have also made progress and reached agreement on some specific issues,” he said, according to a transcript of the remarks released by the State Department. “This is very good.”

In remarks to Mr Xi during the 35-minute session at the Great Hall of the People, Mr Blinken said “the United States and China have an obligation and responsibility to manage our relationship”.

“The United States is committed to doing that,” he added. “It’s in the interest of the United States, in the interests of China, and in the interest of the world.”

Mr Blinken described his earlier discussions with senior Chinese officials as “candid and constructive.”

Despite the symbolism of his presence in China, he and other US officials had played down the prospects for any significant breakthroughs on the biggest issues facing the planet’s two largest economies.

Instead, the officials emphasised the importance of the two countries establishing and maintaining better lines of communication.

“Progress is hard,” Mr Blinken told reporters. “It takes time, it takes more than one visit.”

His trip is expected to herald a new round of visits by senior US and Chinese officials to each other’s countries, possibly including a meeting between Mr Xi and Mr Biden in India or the US in the coming months.