Ahead of Xi's appointment last Thursday, General Liu Yuan, a senior People's Liberation Army (PLA) officer close to the new leader, warned of the danger of war with Japan in a series of conciliatory commentaries and public remarks at odds with earlier bellicose rhetoric from military hawks.
In addition, maritime experts believe Beijing's announcement a week ago that it would unify its armada of paramilitary maritime agencies under a single command will tighten control over these forces on the frontline of China's efforts to enforce claims over disputed islands in the East China Sea.
To be sure, Liu is largely on his own among senior military officers publicly calling for calm, but the volume of his comments, their timing and his close relationship to Xi point to a potential shift, experts say.
"As the new leaders try to figure out their relations with the U.S. and their foreign policy, China is being more restrained on the maritime disputes," said Sun Yun, a researcher on Chinese foreign policy at the Washington-based Brookings Institution.
"Nevertheless, as a serviceman, I need to particularly make it clear to people what a war really is," said Liu, the son of China's late president Liu Shaoqi.
"Since we have enjoyed peace for quite a long time, many young people do not know what a war is like. It is actually very cruel and costly.
"If there is any alternative way to solve the problem, there is no need to resort to the means of extreme violence for a solution."
Absent from Liu's commentaries has been the South China Sea, where China claims large swathes of ocean that could also be rich in oil and gas. The Philippines, Vietnam and other nations in Southeast Asia have challenged Beijing over those claims.
China's economic revival was now at a critical period and it must avoid being drawn into an "inadvertent" war, he wrote.
"The United States and Japan are afraid we are catching up to them and will do anything to contain China's development," he said. "We must not be fooled."