When US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson arrived in Beijing this week for the fifth and, for him, final round of the Strategic Economic Dialogue, few people expected substantial results. They turned out to be right because there were few breakthroughs on the thorniest economic and trade issues between the two sides, such as currency, despite all the talk about progress on many important fronts. Although the cabinet-level dialogue is hailed by Beijing as a landmark step and an effective mechanism in bilateral ties, it has been a target of criticism in Washington, being perceived as more about form than content. But for Mr Paulson - who has staked his credibility on the high-level talks, which began in 2006 partially at his instigation - there seems to be little reason to worry. His reputation as China's best US friend and his immense popularity among the Communist Party elite remain high despite his departure next month and a pool of disputes and differences that remain between the two countries, according to analysts. It was laid bare in Chinese hospitality this week and a list of 'important consensus and agreements' that both sides announced at the end of the two-day meeting. President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao also went out of their way to meet him yesterday, in a mark of respect to his decades-long China experience, his connections with state leaders and his contributions to reducing antagonism towards China in Washington. Fudan University economics professor Zhou Dunren said Mr Paulson was familiar with Sino-US politics and knew co-operation and engagement were the best ways towards an open China market. He had undertaken a difficult task to increase understanding between the countries, calm China bashers in Washington and try to avoid confrontation, Professor Zhou said. 'While he won applause on Wall Street by urging China to open its market, he has also earned his name in China by persuading Congress not to impose sanctions over China's alleged manipulation of the exchange rate,' he said. The establishment of the dialogue would be a large part of his legacy, analysts said. Mr Paulson also made it clear in his closing remarks yesterday that 'through engagement, the United States and China can build a stronger relationship that benefits our citizens and the global economy. The achievements speak for themselves.' Tao Wenzhao , American affairs researcher at the China Academy of Social Sciences, said Mr Paulson's case showed how China rewarded foreigners once they were recognised as friends. 'Whether he is in office or not, he will always be a friend of Chinese people, and his warm reception is guaranteed,' Professor Tao said. Mr Paulson appears to know Chinese tradition well. He paid a tribute to his former counterpart, former vice-premier Wu Yi , who jointly inaugurated the dialogue mechanism. He is also aware of the concerns prompted by his departure about whether the dialogue will be modified under the new US administration. 'I don't think I should speculate in terms of what form it will take in the future,' Mr Paulson said. 'I just have great confidence that when any initiative demonstrates success over a period of time, it is generally continued.'