BEIJING—In the two years before
became China’s leader in 2012, U.S. officials tried to size him up through a series of face-to-face meetings.
During talks in China in 2011, Mr. Xi, then vice president, asked about civilian control of the U.S. military, shared his thoughts on uprisings in the Middle East and spoke, unprompted, about his father, a renowned revolutionary. When he visited the U.S. in 2012, he was relaxed and affable, chatting with students and posing for pictures with
at a Los Angeles Lakers basketball game.
The U.S. officials’ conclusion: Although Mr. Xi was far more confident and forthright than
the stiff and scripted leader he would succeed, he likely shared his commitment to stable ties with Washington and closer…