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On a steamy August day along the Chinese coast, Sen. Joe Biden stepped off a minibus at a seaside compound for a series of unusual meetings with China’s Communist Party leaders.

At a lunch banquet, Biden and three other senators argued with Chinese officials about what the O.J. Simpson trial had revealed about the integrity of the U.S. legal system. When the senators met afterward with the party secretary, Jiang Zemin, they sparred over that and other thorny issues: missile technology proliferation, human rights and Taiwan.

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