It is the art or skill in managing relations between communities or nations with the aim of avoiding conflict and for the common good. Practitioners are known as diplomats.

THE victory of Donald Trump in the US presidential election has given diplomacy a new lease of life. The president-elect is unpredictable. He has gone back on some of his campaign promises. Many countries – both friends and allies of the US – are wondering what to make of Trump. Will diplomats be able to find the answers?

What caused the new jitters?

TRUMP defi ed diplomatic protocol when he took part in a telephone conversation with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文).It was the first such contact since 1979 when Washington switched diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing. The phone exchange raised eyebrows around the world, especially in Beijing.

Was it a storm in a teacup?

IT might have been, if Trump had left it at that. After all, even Beijing said as a political novice he might have made a diplomatic blunder. But Trump then muddied the waters further with a couple of tweets aimed at China. He criticised Beijing’s policy on the yuan and denounced its military operations in the South China Sea (南海). Now the mainland media began fuming.

What did they do?

TRUMP was told to stop acting like a diplomatic rookie. Mainland media also warned that a misstep as president would be far more damaging than one made as president-elect. A ‘get-tough’ policy with China would hurt the US, mainland media said, adding that Trump needs to get the China-US relationship right. After all, they are the world’s biggest and second-biggest economies with powerful armies to match. The casino mogul may have overplayed his hand.

Is it time to call in the diplomats?

Trump is temperamental, and the world cannot afford to bet whether he will mellow when he moves into the White House next month. The United Nations is the world’s supreme diplomatic body, but it is unlikely to get involved. However, Trump’s selection of ‘China’s old friend’ Terry Branstad as his envoy to Beijing may help calm the waters.

Related words and phrases

conflict resolution 衝突解決方案
common good 共同利益
diplomatic corps 外交使團
presidential management 美國政府公務
diplomatic protocol 外交禮節
diplomatic recognition 外交承認
storm in a teacup 微不足道的事
political novice 政治新手
South China Sea 南中國海
get-tough policy 強硬政策
United Nations 聯合國
casino mogul 賭場大亨


1. Who do you think persuaded Donald Trump to end decades of diplomatic
niceties and talk to the Taiwanese president? Why did they do that?
2. Was Trump behaving naively or do you think he has a plan in mind?
3. What did you think of China’s response to Trump’s criticisms?
4. Should Chinese and US diplomats get to work now, or should they wait until
Trump moves into the White House?