The original expression, from the famous Chinese book 'Zhuangzi' continues: "君子之交淡如水，小人之交甘若醴 ..." and its author is expressing that true friendships are like water, but that some relationships, in spite of looking good like wine, are not true friendships.
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What about this one? I'm not very sure.
A hedge between keeps friendship green
You have taken it out of context and that's why you are having difficulty understanding it. The complete quote is: 君子之交淡淡若水，小人之交甘若醴； 君子淡以亲，小人甘以绝。
It contrasts two kinds of friendship and then contrasts the reaction they evoke. In the first, a gentlemen's friendship is as flavorless as water; there is no vigor in it. In contrast, the friendship of a common man is often warm and sincere.
Yet, ironically, we are drawn to those who treat us with little interest; we grow to admire them. Similarly, despite the sincerity of the friendship of the poor man, we grow to despise him.
This saying expresses the notion that many people are drawn to relationships where they are not valued while wanting for affection, yet throw away relationships where they are shown affection easily.
The meaning is much clearer if you consider the entire sentence.
To the extent that there is any truth to the notion that healthy and enduring friendships might sometimes require an occasional fudging or omission of the whole truth and that they might tend to last longer than friendships where the whole truth is never, ever hidden, the following might somehow have a small measure of relevance:
from the Latin “In vino veritas, in aqua sanitas.”
Regardless, it sure comes closer than the variation offered by Ben Franklin (or whoever really said it), but then again, maybe not:
ASSUMING THAT THE SENSE GIVEN ...
"real friendship is transparent, clear-like-water"
A somewhat similar phrase in English is
"no strings attached"
This particular catchphrase in English, is indeed often used in relation to friendship. So,
He was a great friend - no strings attached.
There were no strings attached to their friendship.
There are no strings attached to this love!
.. and so on. That's the best I can think of.
To repeat myself, THIS IS A "SOMEWHAT SIMILAR" phrase ... and I'm assuming the sense claimed above ("clear friendship") is correct - every time I've been in Shangahi I've been drunk so I cannot comment on Chinese sayings.
In a word, "no strings attached" means "unconditionally" or "without conditions or requirements".
Simply go to the OED: no strings attached. informal. used to show that an offer or opportunity carries no special conditions or restrictions. they wanted a lot of money with no strings attached.
Another somewhat similar phrase in English is "no ifs, ands or buts". You could say: "I'm your friend - no ifs, ands or buts!" but that would be novel. "A friend, no strings attached" would be a more common formulation. OK?
here's a "reference"
ALERT -- it's possible that reference is complete nonsense, like a lot of stuff on the internet.
in English we say
"good fences, make good neighbours!"
I think that's the point of your Chinese saying.
That English phrase means .. while it's great to be friends, you need to have clear boundaries and agreements on everything. Friends shouldn't just, say, endlessly share everything. While being "friendly", you should keep things "correct" and "in order".
A somewhat similar phrase in English is, "Trust - but Verify!" (it was popularised by US President Reagan; it comes from a Russian original phrase; you can easily read about it extensively online). One could say "Trust, but verify!" is a rather harsher version of "Good fences make good neighbours!"