Joe Biden tells China the U.S. will never default on debt

On the last day of his four-day visit to China, Vice President Joe Biden told an audience at Sichuan University in Chengdu that the U.S. has never defaulted on its debt, and never will.

"Some Chinese are concerned about investment in the United States," Biden said, according to CNN. "But the U.S. owns 87 percent of our financial assets and 69 percent of treasury bonds. China owns only 1 percent of financial assets and 8 percent of our treasury bonds. So it's in our interest not just to protect Chinese investors. We have an overarching interest in protecting the investment."

"The United States has never defaulted and never will," he then added.

China holds around $900 billion in U.S. bonds, and the U.S. economy was "front and center" during Biden's trip, CNN reports.

According to The Los Angeles Times, Biden also used the speech as an opportunity to call for increased cooperation between China and the U.S., and to "gently prod" China on human rights.

Biden said some people in China "believe that greater freedom could threaten economic progress by undermining social stability."

"I do not pretend to have the answer, but I believe history has shown the opposite to be true, that in the long run, greater openness is a source of stability and a sign of strength, that prosperity peaks when governments foster both free enterprise and free exchange of ideas, that liberty unlocks a people's full potential. And in its absence, unrest festers," Biden said. "Openness, free exchange of ideas, free enterprise and liberty are among the reasons why the United States, in my view, is at this moment the wealthiest nation in the history of the world."

Biden's trip came at the invitation of his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, who is seen as the likely successor to President Hu Jintao. The two leaders met once again Sunday afternoon in the city of Dujiangyan, the Times reports, where they spoke with students on a basketball court — Biden "took a half-dozen shots before nailing one" — and then later shared tea and inspected an irrigation project before returning to Chengdu for dinner.

Biden heads to Mongolia on Monday morning for a brief visit, and is scheduled to arrive in Tokyo, Japan on Monday night.