PARIS, France—When Donald Trump visited Beijing in 2017, China treated him to an official dinner inside the Forbidden City, an honor no American president had gotten since Mao Zedong took power.
Trump, a wrestling enthusiast, awarded a specially made, 70-pound trophy at the end of a sumo match during a trip to Japan last month. And this past week, the British royal family lavished Trump with courtesies in a state visit, capped by a Buckingham Palace dinner that his adult children gleefully chronicled in their Instagram feeds.
American presidents aren’t treated shabbily when they travel abroad. China, after all, cleared away tourists for Barack Obama’s trip to the Great Wall in 2009, while George W. Bush received the first state visit that Britain ever bestowed on a U.S. president. But nations are pampering Trump with an ardor and a personal touch that few of his predecessors enjoyed. Among foreign leaders, the working assumption seems to be that Trump expects and needs shows of devotion, and that if he isn’t diligently courted during his visits, he might leave diplomatic wreckage strewn in his wake.
The strategy doesn’t seem to be paying off, though, diplomats and foreign-policy experts say. Trump will cheerfully accept the epic levels of hospitality he’s shown, but he isn’t necessarily going to rethink the certitudes he brought to the job. Halfway through his term, he is waging a trade war with China, blaming outgoing British Prime Minister Theresa May for mishandling Brexit, and faulting allies that have feted him for not spending more on defense.