Representatives of the American Chamber of Commerce in China (AmCham Shanghai), visiting Washington last week, said that Chinese President Xi Jinping had indicated plans to further open up the economy.
But it was unclear whether he had all the control levers at his command less than a year after taking power, they said.
Xi, who became head of the Communist Party last November, has shown he will take "a more pro-market approach than his predecessor (Hu Jintao)," Kenneth Jarrett, president of AmCham Shanghai, told reporters.
But businesses were waiting to see what comes out of a key meeting of the Chinese Communist Party leadership in November.
The meeting -- known as the third plenum -- traditionally is used to unveil political and economic reforms.
The plenum could be an "opening salvo" on Chinese reforms, Jarrett said.
The AmCham Shanghai delegation was in the US capital for their annual "doorknock" talks with top Obama administration officials, lawmakers, and members of leading think tanks, pushing for a stronger US-China economic and trade relationship.
Jarrett said that China has only provided "sketchy" details on the planned free-trade zone in Shanghai announced in early September.
The FTZ could be a "pilot project" for financial and economic reforms, he said.
Timothy Stratford, a member of the delegation, said the Shanghai FTZ could be used to test a lowering of barriers to US investment in China.
The relaunch of US-China negotiations on a Bilateral Investment Treaty in July was an encouraging sign, the executives said.
The Chamber estimates that a successful conclusion of the BIT could open more than 100 Chinese industries to US investment.
And the benefit would be shared, fostering badly needed US job growth as the economy recovers from the Great Recession.
China already is the fastest-growing source of foreign direct investment into the United States, up at an annual average rate of 71 percent from 2008-2012, according to the US government.