According to President Joe Biden, he and President Xi Jinping of China have traveled many miles together — 17,000 of them, he estimates — and have spent dozens of hours in meetings — 78, to be precise — in the years they have known each other.

But he often returns to a single interaction to explain the nature of their relationship, which has long been defined by Biden’s rosy view of democracy and Xi’s deep skepticism of it.

"I was with Xi Jinping in the Tibetan plateau,” Biden recalled at a fundraiser in October, reciting a story he has shared at least 13 times this year, according to an analysis of his speeches. "And he turned to me, and he said, ‘Can you define America for me?’ This is the God’s truth. He’s repeated it. I said, ‘Yes, one word: possibilities.’”