China and Russia held off congratulating US President-elect Joe Biden on Monday, with Bejing saying it would follow usual custom in its response and the Kremlin noting incumbent Donald Trump’s vow to pursue legal challenges.
Democrat Biden clinched enough states to win the presidency on Saturday and has begun making plans for when he takes office on January 20. Trump has not conceded defeat and plans rallies to build support for legal challenges.
Some of the United States’ biggest and closest allies in Europe, the Middle East and Asia, including India, quickly congratulated Biden over the weekend despite Trump’s refusal to concede, as did some Trump allies, including Israel and Saudi Arabia.
“We noticed that Mr Biden has declared election victory,” China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin told a daily media briefing. “We understand that the US presidential election result will be determined following U.S. law and procedures.” In 2016, Chinese President Xi Jinping sent congratulations to Trump on November 9, a day after the election.
While Biden is expected to maintain a tough stance on China – he has called Xi a “thug” and vowed to lead a campaign to “pressure, isolate and punish China” – he is likely to take a more measured and multilateral in his approach.
The Kremlin said it would wait for the official results of the election before commenting, and that it had noted Trump’s announcement of legal challenges. President Vladimir Putin has remained silent since Biden’s victory. In the run-up to the vote, Putin had appeared to hedge his bets, frowning on Biden’s anti-Russian rhetoric but welcoming his comments on nuclear arms control. Putin had also defended Biden’s son, Hunter, against criticism from Trump. “We think it appropriate to wait for the official vote count,” a Kremlin spokesperson told reporters.
There were two other notable holdouts among the world leaders who rushed to congratulate Biden: the leaders of Latin America’s two largest countries, both of whom have been seen as friendly to Trump.
President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil, sometimes dubbed “the Trump of the Tropics” for his populist, off-the-cuff style, has kept silent on Trump’s loss. And Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador refused to congratulate Biden at this point, saying he would wait until the legal challenges over the vote were resolved.
On Saturday, López Obrador was one of the few world leaders still willing to heap praise on Trump. “President Trump has been very respectful of us, and we have reached very good agreements, and we thank him because he has not interfered and has respected us.”