President Hu Jintao says China has no interest in pursuing an arms race or exerting military dominance over other nations.
On the third day of a state visit to the United States before departing for Chicago, Mr Hu called for co-operation on economic and security issues.
In a speech to a business audience in Washington DC on Thursday, Mr Hu pledged China would "remain committed to the path of peaceful development".
"We do not engage in arms races, we are not a military threat to any country. China will never seek to dominate or pursue an expansionist policy," he said.
The president said the relationship between the United States and China had historically enjoyed "smooth and steady growth" when the two nations considered each other's interests.
He repeatedly touched on issues that divide the US and China during his speech, saying the two nations must treat each other as equals based on "mutual respect".
The president then moved his attention toward concerns US leaders have expressed over China's influence in the rest of Asia.
"Taiwan and Tibet-related issues concern Chinese sovereignty and territorial integrity," Mr Hu said, adding that they "touch upon the national sentiments of 1.3 billion Chinese".
The Chinese government is currently in control of Tibet and considers the island of Taiwan, which separated from China amid civil war in 1949, to be part of its territory.
Chicago is Mr Hu's only stop in the United States outside the capital.
Mayor Richard Daley has visited China four times since 2004 and has promoted the city as a global transportation hub with a large and capable manufacturing sector.
Newly released figures show China's GDP grew by a faster-than-expected 10.3% in 2010.