After spending the best part of the week sidestepping questions about when it would formally congratulate President-elect Joe Biden for his election victory, a senior official in China on Friday said Beijing fully respects “the choice of the American people.”
“We congratulate Mr. Biden and (vice presidential running mate) Ms. Harris,” foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told reporters during a regularly scheduled press briefing. China was one of the last major countries to congratulate Biden on his win.
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A representative for Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has said Moscow prefers to wait until all the “legal processes” – President Donald Trump’s various lawsuits connected to unfounded claims of mass voter fraud – to play out before honoring Biden’s victory.
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The overwhelmingly majority of other prominent world leaders and governments from Afghanistan to Saudi Arabia have congratulated Biden. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, populists from the political right and left, respectively, are two notable holdouts.
Wang did not explain the delay after Biden last weekend was projected to have secured enough Electoral College votes in the Nov. 3 election to win the White House, but he added that “the result will be confirmed according to U.S. laws and procedures.”
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Chinese media and political analysts and some officials connected to the central government in Beijing have expressed the view that a Biden administration could help reset relations between Beijing and Washington that have deteriorated markedly under the Trump administration over trade, the coronavirus pandemic and other issues.
Trump has branded China a security threat and imposed export curbs and other sanctions on Chinese companies as part of a tariff war with Beijing.
“We expect a more practical approach to China from Biden, without all the constant China-bashing,” Huiyao Wang, a senior adviser to China’s Vice Premier Liu He, previously told USA TODAY. Wang also directs the Center for China and Globalization, a Beijing tank think.
“If Biden is serious about improving the U.S. economy and finding a way out of its coronavirus mess then he needs to collaborate with China, not fight with it,” Wang said, noting that “large structural differences” between how Beijing and Washington viewed the world should not preclude working relations.
Benjamin H. Friedman, policy director at Defense Priorities, a Washington, D.C.-based security think tank, said he expects Biden to take a “tough” but ultimately “less confrontational rhetorical approach overall” to China.
In a speech last year, Biden said that “if China has its way, it will keep robbing the U.S. of our technology and intellectual property, or forcing American companies to give it away in order to do business in China.” However, in the same address Biden added that he would seek to “build a united front of friends and partners to challenge China’s abusive behavior,” avoiding Trump’s aggressive unilateral approach.
In a further sign that America’s adversaries and allies are already working under the assumption that Biden will be the 46th U.S. president despite Trump’s refusal to concede, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson mistakenly referred to Trump on Thursday as the “previous president.” Trump’s term officially ends January 20.
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