a rare opportunity to see chinas leader up close and sort of personal
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President Xi Jinping of China is one of the most self-contained Chinese leaders in decades, who reveals next to nothing about his personal life.

As the most powerful Chinese leader in generations, Xi Jinping rarely bothers to glad-hand or to try charming a crowd. His public appearances in China are carefully crafted, with fawning cadres and adoring fans positioned around him.

So when Mr. Xi landed in San Francisco this week to meet with President Biden, to try to stabilize a relationship with the United States that has been spiraling downward, it provided a rare opportunity to see the Chinese leader up close and, at times, less filtered than usual.

There were a few moments when Mr. Xi turned animated — or the closest he gets to it — like when a group of Iowans he had met in the 1980s came through the receiving line at a gala dinner in San Francisco on Wednesday night. Mr. Xi’s face lit up as he greeted the man who had driven him around rural Iowa, when Mr. Xi was a young party official from Hebei province hoping to glean insights into America’s agricultural technology.

Earlier, the Chinese leader had compared presidential limousines with Mr. Biden as they met on the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit. And he thanked Mr. Biden for reminding him that his wife, Peng Liyuan, a famous Chinese soprano and folk singer, has a birthday on Monday, as does Mr. Biden.

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