China's economy already has shown signs of slowing, while the trade war has shaken the confidence of USA businesses, as retaliatory tariffs have raised prices and helped choke off a key export market.
If a deal is not reached by the beginning of next month then Washington is set to more than double tariffs on 200 billion dollars-worth of Chinese imports. And President Donald Trump's aggressive strategy has failed to produce a reduction in the U.S. trade deficit with China, which he set as a primary goal.
Lighthizer and U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin arrived in Beijing on Tuesday and are scheduled to hold talks on Thursday and Friday with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, the top economic adviser to Xi.
Lighthizer did not answer reporters' questions on his arrival at a hotel in the Chinese capital.
U.S. President Donald Trump said on Tuesday that he could let the March 1 deadline for a trade agreement with China "slide for a little while", but that he would prefer not to and expects to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping to close the deal at some point.
Lower level officials had arrived earlier for what the White House has called preparatory meetings due to start on Monday.
Trump said talks in Beijing are "going well", but acknowledged bilateral talks between him and Xi are unlikely to come to pass before the current March 2 deadline. But the two sides are only just starting the work of drafting a common document and are still tussling over how a deal may be enforced, which USA officials have repeatedly called a crucial element.
US campaign against Huawei faces challenge in Eastern Europe / WSJ (paywall)"In the Czech Republic, officials have taken opposite sides on how to balance security concerns raised by the USA, and the country's own cybersecurity officials, with the desire for Chinese investment, trade and business opportunities".
These include ending China's alleged violations of intellectual-property rights and forced transfers of American technologies.