In tone and results, the summit was similar to a June 2013 meeting between Xi and President Barack Obama at Sunnylands in Rancho Mirage, California, that also produced little in the way of tangible announcements.
While the timing was largely coincidental, the fact that US President Donald Trump ordered the strike while hosting a summit with Chinese leader Xi Jinping carried particular resonance given that the North's nuclear ambitions - and how best to thwart them - was among the top agenda items of their meeting.
"We have made tremendous progress in our relationship with China", Trump said effusively at the close of a high-stakes but studiously familiar first meeting between the pair at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. The relationship developed by President Xi and myself I think is outstanding.
Mr Trump has repeatedly criticised China for exporting more to the U.S. than it buys. The missile strike overshadowed the summit and also increased tension between the two countries over North Korea, as Trump signaled that he's willing to take unilateral action against a regime flouting worldwide norms.
Tellingly, Chinese media readouts made no mention of the North Korea issue, despite United States briefings placing that item near the top of the agenda.
The US has been pushing China to put pressure on North Korea to stop its nuclear program and missile testing, but Trump said in an interview published Sunday with the Financial Times that the US would be prepared to act alone to stop North Korea.
"Swaggering as a superpower, the U.S. has been picking only on countries without nuclear weapons and the Trump administration is no exception", the foreign ministry spokesman said, according to KCNA.
In Tokyo, the feasibility of USA military action was downplayed, while South Korea said the focus remained on deterrence and readiness.
Trump told Xi the USA would "chart our own course if this is something China is just unable to coordinate with us", Tillerson said. Tillerson also said he was "hopeful that China will find ways to exercise influence over North Korea's actions".
"We had long and in-depth communication, " Xi said through a translator. In a brief nod to the challenges that exist in multiple dimensions of the relationship, he also noted that "the United States does recognize the challenges China can present to American interests".
United States media, at least, was far more interested in the Syria story than the carefully-crafted summit; after brief comments to the press by Trump, reporters could be heard shouting out questions about the missile strikes before Xi was able to speak his piece.
China is North Korea's economic lifeline and as such enjoys more leverage over its maverick neighbour than any other country.
Trump informed the Chinese leader personally of the strike as the 59 Tomahawk missiles were winding their way to the Shayrat airbase. It was the first direct US assault on the Russian-backed government of Bashar al-Assad in six years of civil war.
Trump's position on democratically ruled Taiwan - which China considers part of its territory awaiting reunification - has been a major irritant since he accepted a protocol-breaking phone call from the Taiwanese president after his election victory.