China has invited President Donald Trump’s daughter and son-in-law to visit later this year, according to people familiar with the matter, in the latest sign of the first family’s growing influence over foreign affairs.
Details of the possible trip by Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, both of whom have official jobs in the White House, were still under discussion, according to a U.S. official and a Chinese official who asked not to be identified. The visit may also help prepare for a trip by the president himself, said the Chinese official, who asked not be identified disclosing plans that haven’t been announced.
Kushner and Ivanka Trump hosted the U.S.’s newly sworn-in ambassador to China, Terry Branstad, for an introductory dinner Sunday at the Trump Hotel in Washington, according to the U.S. official, who asked not to be identified confirming a meeting that hasn’t been made public. The former Iowa governor, who has known Chinese President Xi Jinping since the 1980s, is expected to depart Friday and arrive in China next week after meetings in Honolulu.
The discussions highlight Trump’s reliance on the couple to manage some of the U.S.’s thorniest issues. Neither Ivanka Trump, 35, who has been an executive in her father’s company and started her own fashion line, or Kushner, a 36-year-old property tycoon, has any prior government experience. Kushner will to travel to the Middle East this week to push for a Israeli-Palestinian peace deal. He also visited Iraq in April.
Kushner has come under intense scrutiny after reports last month that he discussed creating a secret line of communication with the Russian government before Trump took office. The New York Times reported Sunday that he was considering hiring criminal defense lawyers to represent him in the widening federal probe into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election.
At the same time, Kushner’s family business, the Kushner Cos., has been criticized over its use of a visa program to woo wealthy Chinese with green cards in exchange for investing in U.S. projects. The real estate company has seen talks for three major projects quashed, including negotiations with China’s Anbang Insurance Group Co. to refinance the family’s marquee Manhattan office tower.
Ivanka Trump and Kushner’s invitation follows a verbal offer from Xi during his trip to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort, the Chinese official said. The timing would depend in part on the date of the Communist Party’s twice-a-decade leadership reshuffle, which may also affect planning for any Trump visit, the official said.
Kushner was heavily involved in planning the Florida meeting in April, which was first summit between the new U.S. president and China’s president.
Following Trump’s inauguration, China courted the White House with meetings between Kushner and Chinese Ambassador Cui Tiankai and Ivanka Trump’s Lunar New Year visit to the Chinese Embassy. The couple’s children were a hit among Chinese social media users after serenading Xi and his wife in Mandarin.
Those efforts to cultivate the White House power couple appeared to pay off when Trump emerged from his first meeting with Xi in April praising his counterpart and tempering campaign-season trade threats. Trump retracted a threat to brand China a currency manipulator and credited Xi with “trying hard” to resolve the North Korea issue. “Why would I call China a currency manipulator when they are working with us on the North Korean problem?” Trump tweeted in April. “We will see what happens!”
Officials from both governments have recently questioned whether the goodwill can last. Acting Assistant Secretary of State Susan Thornton has warned that tensions may resurface if China can’t deliver a breakthrough on efforts to curb North Korea’s nuclear-weapons program. Former Chinese Vice Commerce Minister Wei Jianguo speculatedMonday that the trade detente might not survive past next year.
The next opportunity for Trump and Xi to meet comes at the Group of 20 summit slated to be held in July in Hamburg, Germany. The gathering is scheduled to take place just a week before the their self-imposed deadline for a plan to clear a backlog of trade and investment issues.
— With assistance by Peter Martin, Keith Zhai, and Jennifer Jacobs