WASHINGTON — When Donald Trump meets with Chinese leader Xi Jinping at the president’s exclusive Mar-a-Lago club in Florida Thursday, the scene will be scrutinized by diplomats, foreign policy specialists, and the media for clues on how two of the world’s most important leaders get along.
The backdrop will serve another purpose: giving the American president his highest-profile event yet to show off his for-profit private club and crystallizing how Trump is transforming the American presidency by merging international diplomacy, politics, and free-media marketing for his business empire.
Trump’s White House says the president wants Xi to feel comfortable for high-level talks in the relaxed environs of his Palm Beach club, a crown jewel in Trump’s global array of holdings. But to Trump’s harshest critics, the scene reeks of a corrupt blending of public power, personal profit, and undue access for wealthy club members.
Xi will be the second foreign head of state to visit Mar-a-Lago during Trump’s administration. His trip comes seven weeks after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan spent a night at the resort, a visit that was well documented on social media when club members snapped and posted photos of the two leaders.
There’s a long history of presidents entertaining foreign leaders outside of the Beltway, from the Bushes opening up Walker Point in Maine to Ronald Reagan hosting the…
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