“Beginning in early 2011 and over the next 18 months, the two men convened at least eight times, in the United States and in China, according to former U.S. officials. They met formally, took walks, shot baskets at a rural Chinese school and spent more than 25 hours dining privately, joined only by interpreters. Mr. Biden made a quick ‘personal connection’ with the Chinese leader, even if he sometimes confounded his Mandarin interpreter by quoting hard-to-translate Irish verse, said Daniel Russel, an aide present at several of the meetings.

“‘He was remarkably good in getting to a personal relationship right away and getting Xi to open up,’ Mr. Russel said. Mr. Biden’s gleaned insights — especially his assessment of Mr. Xi’s authoritarian intentions — informed Mr. Obama’s later approach, several Obama aides said in interviews…”

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