Language used in statements issued after the two leaders meet will offer clues as to the temperature in the room — so what does it all mean?
This story is being published by POLITICO as part of a content partnership with the South China Morning Post. It originally appeared on scmp.com on Dec. 1,2018.
With so much at stake, all eyes will be on a crucial meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and his U. S. counterpart Donald Trump in Buenos Aires on Saturday.
But with no joint press conference expected after the talks, gauging how they went will be a matter of interpreting the diplomatic language used in any statements released by the two sides.
So what do these frequently used terms actually mean? From “stern representations” to the difference between a “candid” and “thorough” exchange of views, here’s our guide to diplomatic speak.
A meeting has gone smoothly if talks are described as “cordial and friendly” — it is one of the best-case scenarios and could mean a deal has been reached, or at least that a turnaround is possible.
One example is its use to describe a change in China’s relations with the Philippines. Ties had deteriorated over the South China Sea when former Philippine president Benigno Aquino took the matter to an international tribunal in The Hague, which rejected Beijing’s vast claims to the resource-rich waterway. Beijing was furious and suspended high-level talks with Manila. But the situation changed when Rodrigo Duterte became Philippine president and began pursuing friendlier ties with China. A joint statement issued after Duterte met Xi during his first trip to Beijing in 2016 said their talks were held in a “friendly” atmosphere — suggesting efforts towards a rapprochement from both sides. China went on to make an investment pledge to the Philippines following the talks.
It is not often that talks between two state leaders can be considered “friendly,” and on many occasions they are instead described as “candid and frank.” This generally means both sides have expressed their views, but that they did not agree on these views and neither side would budge.
The term is often used when Chinese officials discuss issues such as human rights and the South China Sea.

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