The promises of mutual understanding and friendship came despite disagreements between the two nations on trade, international relations and other issues -- and as U.S. President Donald Trump continues to make critical comments about China.
Xi greeted the new secretary of state in an ornate room in the Great Hall of the People. They made brief public remarks after their meeting.
"You have made a lot of active efforts to achieve a smooth transition in our relationship under the new era," Xi said. "And I also appreciate your comment that the China-U.S. relationship can only be defined by cooperation and friendship."
Tillerson said: "We know that through further dialogue we will achieve a greater understanding, that will lead to a strengthening of the ties between China and the United States and set the tone for our future relationship of cooperation."
Tillerson's comments were in marked difference to Trump's.
While campaigning for president, Trump criticized China for taking jobs away from the United States.
Hours before the meeting, North Korea announced it had tested a new high-thrust missile engine.
Tillerson is working out the details of a tentative summit between the two presidents in April in Palm Beach, Fla. Xi also invited Trump to visit China, according to a Chinese foreign ministry statement.
Last month, Trump and Xi had a telephone conversation that was described as a warm and cordial.
Tillerson and Xi did not speak about their differences, including possible punitive trade measures against China and Beijing's assertiveness in the South China Sea.
The Chinese foreign ministry statement said they planned cooperation and coordination on "regional hotspots."
Beijing was Tillerson's final stop on his first official trip to Asia, which included visits to Japan and South Korea.
On Friday, Tillerson said military action is "on the table" in dealing with Pyongyang after meeting with South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se.
On Thursday, Tillerson said past U.S. engagement with North Korea was a "failure" after meeting with Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida in Tokyo.