China's Foreign Ministry Congratulates Biden on Election Win; President Xi Still Silent

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FILE - In this Jan. 17, 2017, file photo, Chinese President Xi Jinping speaks at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. (AP Photo/Michel Euler, File)
In this Jan. 17, 2017 photo, Chinese President Xi Jinping speaks at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. (AP Photo/Michel Euler, File)

China's Foreign Ministry has joined the chorus of nations congratulating Joe Biden and Kamala Harris Friday as the winners of the U.S. presidential election. But the Chinese president himself, Xi Jinping, has maintained his silence on the outcome.

"We respect the choice of the American people," Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said at a Friday briefing in Beijing. "We congratulate Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris."

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Wang also appeared to give a nod to President Donald Trump's refusal thus far to concede and claims that he was the victim of widespread voter fraud that has yet to be substantiated.

"At the same time, the result will be confirmed according to U.S. laws and procedures," Wang said.

Most leaders of major countries rushed to offer their personal congratulations to Biden, a former vice president, shortly after it appeared that he had gained enough electoral votes for victory, but Xi and Russian President Vladimir Putin have held off.

Xi's silence on the 2020 election results contrasted with his swift action after the 2016 election. On Nov. 9, 2016, a day after the election, Xi sent his personal congratulations to Trump.

Other leaders who have yet to congratulate Biden included Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, a close ally of Trump, and Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who has said he would wait until legal disputes surrounding the election were resolved.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a target of Biden on a range of issues, also initially held off, but congratulated Biden on Tuesday.

"I believe that the strong cooperation and alliance between our countries will continue to contribute to world peace in the future, as it has done so far," Erdogan said in a statement.

China's belated response to Biden's apparent victory, coupled with Xi's own silence and recent warnings against perceived threats to China's sovereignty, appear to dampen the initial euphoria at the success of the Democratic ticket, particularly in Europe.

Shortly after major news organizations declared Biden the winner last Saturday, Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo posted on Twitter: "Welcome back, America," an apparent reference to Trump's rocky relationships with European allies and his threat in 2018 to pull the U.S. out of NATO.

Biden's campaign has pledged to forge tighter relationships with allies worldwide to strengthen deterrence against China and Russia. But Xi this week sent out veiled warnings against policies seen as threats in Beijing.

In a video address Thursday to world leaders at the 3rd annual Paris Peace Forum, Xi warned that China was steadfast in its opposition to "hegemony" in international affairs, a term often used by China to characterize U.S. policy.

"We need to uphold multilateralism, oppose unilateralism, hegemony and power politics, and reject all forms of terrorism and acts of extreme violence," Xi said, according to China's state-run Xinhua news agency.

On Friday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang also lashed out at Trump's executive order banning Americans from investing in Chinese firms linked to the People's Liberation Army.

Wang accused the U.S. of "viciously slandering" Chinese economic policies. The executive order "not only severely harms the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese companies, but also the interests of foreign investors. including U.S. ones," Wang said.

The signals from China underlined the daunting challenges a Biden administration will face in strengthening alliances and holding them together while pursuing a National Defense Strategy currently committed to long-term "great power competition" with China and Russia.

In a Center for a New American Security video conference Monday, Kurt Campbell, the former assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs in the Obama administration, said that the U.S. will first "have to make the case internationally that we're still up to the challenge."

Campbell, a co-founder of CNAS with Michele Flournoy, who is frequently mentioned as a possible Biden choice for Defense Secretary, said there was a sense in the international community that the U.S. was a country "that's been wounded and domestically challenged" by the COVID-19 crisis and internal divisions that show no signs of healing.

"There's going to be a big uncertainty [among allies] that Biden and Harris are going to have to deal with," said Carrie Cordero, a senior CNAS fellow and former counsel to the National Intelligence Agency.

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.

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