German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday stressed the importance of dialogue with China during a visit to Beijing that comes amid shared concerns over trade with the United States and Washington's rejection of the Iran nuclear deal.

Merkel held morning discussions with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, who said China-Germany relations were "developing steadily at a high-level," but that "the current economic and political situations in the world are complex."

Merkel affirmed their past success in finding answers to issues between them and emphasized the need for regular discussions on issues from human rights to science and technology.

"And then our conversations can center on really where are there still problems, what are the solutions, what are the opportunities. Then we can play our part in a global, multilateral system," Merkel said.

Merkel was to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping in the afternoon. On Friday, she travels to the technology powerhouse of Shenzhen in southern China.

In her remarks to Li, Merkel also mentioned that, "Of course China's relationship with the European Union is important to me, and how Germany contributes to that."

Angela Merkel in China
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang review the guard of honour during a welcome ceremony outside the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, May 24, 2018. REUTERS/Jason Lee

That could be seen as a reference to concerns among German officials and the business community that China's close relations with the EU's eastern members were undercutting the bloc's rules on bidding and transparency. Merkel gave no details before reporters were ushered from the meeting room at the Great Hall of the People in the heart of the Chinese capital.

Merkel's visit as the head of a delegation of government and business leaders is her first since she formed her new government. It follows visits to Washington to meet with President Donald Trump and to Sochi, Russia, for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin over recent weeks.

Despite tensions with the U.S., German officials have been keen to stress their continued commitment to trans-Atlantic ties and dismiss suggestions that Germany is seeking alternative alliances, even as they find common ground with Russia and China on the Iran nuclear deal and other issues.

Germany and China were among the five nations that negotiated the Iran deal and have called for it to continue despite the U.S. pullout.

Ahead of the trip, the chancellor said her talks with Chinese leaders will address issues such as the rule of law, the economy and trade disputes.

Amnesty International on Wednesday called on Merkel to bring up in her meetings the house arrest of Liu Xia, the widow of Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, and call for her release.

The trip follows high-level talks in Washington between American and Chinese officials that have somewhat lessened tensions between the two countries and buoyed stock markets.