Xi met Tillerson in Beijing just hours after nuclear-armed North Korea tested the US-China relationship anew by announcing a provocative rocket engine trial, and with delicate negotiations under way for a Xi summit with President Donald Trump.
Xi told Tillerson that he and Trump had resolved in a phone call last month "to make joint efforts to advance China- US cooperation, and we believe that we can make sure the relationship will move ahead in a constructive fashion in the new era.'
"I'm confident that as long as we can do this, the relationship can surely move in the right direction," Xi said.
En route to Beijing, Tillerson visited US allies Japan and South Korea where he declared Washington would drop the "failed" approach of "strategic patience" with Pyongyang - adding that US military action against the North was possible.
That marked a sharp break with China, which favors careful diplomacy over heated rhetoric.
Relations have also been strained by China's fierce opposition to a US missile defense system being rolled out in South Korea and Trump's Twitter accusation that China was not doing enough to control Pyongyang.
Trump has also repeatedly accused China of unfair trade practices.
But Tillerson has made nice while in Beijing.
Earlier yesterday, North Korean state media said the isolated regime had tested a powerful engine hailed by leader Kim Jong-Un as a "new birth" for its rocket industry.