Defense Secretary Leon Panetta shakes hands with China's Vice President Xi Jinping in Beijing on Wednesday (Larry Downing/Associated Press)

Behind the big-dollar fundraisers — a smart piece by our colleagues Ann Gerhart and Jason Horowitz about what goes on at those big, secret fundraisers — such as Romney’s infamous one last May in Boca Raton — the reasons donors donate and how the candidates endure the evenings.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta hangs with our Chinese frenemies — Panetta smiles and jousts with Beijing’s leaders, including recently missing vice president and next top leader Xi Jinping, while Ambassador Gary Locke’s car was surrounded and jostled by protestors, our colleague Craig Whitlock reports.

Thriving through the tough times — Forget Westchester County, N.Y. and Fairfield County, Conn. An astonishing seven out of the country’s 10 wealthiest counties were in the Washington region — colleagues Carol Morello and Ted Mellnik report.