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How China's Xi is seeking to avoid political sand traps at Trump's resort

President Donald Trump has used golf diplomacy before — he hit it off with Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on the green. However, developing a similar chummy rapport with China's President Xi Jinping could prove much more challenging.

Back at home, Xi has declared a "war on golf" as part of his fight against corruption.
Chairman Mao once described the game as a "sport for millionaires," but golf had since gained a reputation in the country of being a pastime in which government officials, including in some cases corrupt ones, go and spend money.

To drive home his anti-corruption drive, Xi has frowned upon party cadres playing the game, hurting membership at many golf courses. More than 100 courses have been shut down for various reasons.

Donald Trump plays a round of golf in Balmedie, Scotland. (File photo).
Getty Images
Donald Trump plays a round of golf in Balmedie, Scotland. (File photo).

That means the Mar-a-Lago resort could be a politically uncomfortable venue for Xi, who is not expected to hit the links.

If he did, he could lose credibility back home with the public and his comrades. Xi is not an elected leader, but he does have to worry about public opinion thanks to a major Communist Party Congress this fall when China's top leaders are chosen for the next five years. So the president doesn't want any slip-ups to tarnish his image.

Xi is also not expected to have a public dinner like Japan's Abe in the restaurant since events for China's leaders, including Xi, are very rarely unscripted.

There are already disgruntled comments on Chinese social media that the choice of Mar-a-Lago instead of the White House is a diplomatic snub of Xi. On Sina Weibo, a Chinese social media platform, online user Qiao Zhiwei wrote, "Are we not even allowed to be in the White House? This is losing face."

China's Foreign Ministry has put a positive spin on the location, saying Mar-a-Lago is recognized as Trump's Winter White House. "The U.S. suggested to meet there," the spokesperson said at a regular press briefing Wednesday. "This shows how much effort the U.S. has put into this meeting. China respects the arrangement."

Xi is expected to arrive at the resort on the afternoon of Thursday, April 6, and stay through lunch on Friday.

"It's a place where [Trump] feels comfortable and at home, and where he can break the ice with Xi Jinping without the formality, really, of a Washington meet-up," explained a senior White House administration official at a briefing about the upcoming meeting.

"I think it's safe to say there's not going to be any golf," the official continued. "Nothing formal or nothing involving golf clubs."

That will perhaps help Xi avoid falling into political sand traps.