Photo: SAUL LOEB / AFP
After days of waiting the race is finally over: Democratic challenger Joe Biden stormed to victory over sitting U.S. President Donald Trump in the battleground state of Pennsylvania, giving him enough Electoral College votes to end one of the most divisive polls in recent history.The close count was followed around the world and countries and leaders in Asia were just waking up to the new definitive numbers on Sunday, with China leading the way.
"He did it! Biden won," announced a local newscaster. "Stay tuned for more updates as China wakes up and reacts."
News of Trump's loss spread quickly on the popular Chinese microblogging site Sina Weibo, drawing millions of mentions in the wake of his defeat. "You're fired," wrote one Chinese netizen in response to the news. "I'm glad that Americans are finally showing some intelligence and exercising their so-called superior sense of democracy." "Trump has two months left in office. I wonder what kind of wonderful surprises he'll have in store," said another, referring to the period between the election and the inauguration in January. Others continued to mock Trump, even taking the effort to re-share embarrassing videos and photos of the 45th president, who as of this writing has not conceded.Biden's name shot to the top of trending charts and forums on the state-censored microblogging site, with millions of Weibo netizens praising the "well-deserved victory". "Woo hoo, a great day for the world and an even better event for China," said one user, reflecting hopes of a broader mood change compared to Trump, whose administration engaged in costly, drawn-out trade wars with Beijing that stoked tensions between the two world powers.
Twitter is banned in China, and President Xi Jinping has yet to react in an official statement. But that did not stop Chinese state media from mocking Trump's spectacular defeat. Accompanied by a laughing face emoji in a now deleted tweet, the government mouthpiece People's Daily newspaper had just two words: Ha Ha.
The highly-anticipated presidential election result comes at a time when U.S.-China relations are on the rocks. A Biden presidency could have a calming effect on geopolitical tensions, even if some of Beijing's biggest critics think the 77-year-old could be easily played and manipulated by Beijing. "Joe Biden as the Democratic challenger, will probably restore a semblance of normalcy, diplomacy, and predictability to the relationship between Washington and Beijing,” China expert and podcast host Kaiser Kuo of SupChina told VICE News ahead of the Nov. 3 vote. "But the odd thing this year is that it's by no means clear whether Biden or Trump would end up ultimately being better for China."The outcome of the vote will definitely have a direct impact on the future of the embattled semi-autonomous territory of Hong Kong, whose streets filled with protesters last year demanding democratic freedoms amid Beijing's increased control over the city.In one social media comment by a lone critical voice lost in a sea of celebratory wishes for Biden, a skeptical Weibo user said: "I'm sure Russia and Iran, along with the Chinese Communist Party, will embrace Biden's victory."
Exiled Chinese dissident and world-famous political artist Ai Weiwei told VICE News as the numbers tilted towards Biden that he couldn't see "any clear argument" being made between Trump or Biden when it comes to a conversation about the state of democracy."The arguments they have both been putting forward are superficial and childish. The election clearly showed how this powerful nation lost its visionary moral ground. American society has become so polarized that you can no longer see what democratic practice should be," Ai said in an emailed response.
But as analysts, critics and pundits dissect what the result means for the world, Biden's victory amounted to a rare point of consensus between glowing comments of Chinese social media users and officials in Taiwan, which Beijing considers part of China.Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen extended their congratulatory wishes to Biden and Vice-President Elect Kamala Harris. "The values on which we have built our relationship could not be stronger," Tsai tweeted. "I look forward to working together to further our friendship [and] contributions to international society."
"Democrats and Republicans are both the same when it comes to foreign affairs. For that reason, whoever wins the election and becomes president won't have much to do with China or help the Hong Kong situation. China will ultimately be the winner."
Similarly, leaders of India and Pakistan, two countries with decades of tensions between them, also congratulated the president and vice-president elects.Pakistan's Imran Khan said he looked forward to continuing work with U.S. to help achieve peace in Afghanistan while Indian leader Narendra Modi gave a special nod to Kamala Harris, who with her Indian heritage is set to make history as the first woman and person of color to fill the vice-presidential role."Heartiest congratulations," Modi tweeted. "Your success is pathbreaking, and a matter of immense pride not just for your chittis, but also for all Indian-Americans," he said, using a Tamil term of endearment for relatives. "I am confident that the vibrant India-U.S. ties will get even stronger with your support and leadership."Indonesian President Joko Widodo sent his "warmest congratulations" to Biden and Harris and said the huge turn voter turnout is a "reflection of the hope placed on democracy."
South Korean leader Moon Jae-in pointed to the strong alliance between the two countries and said he looks forward to "working with you for our shared values."
Congratulations also poured in from Philippines strongman President Rodrigo Duterte, whose deadly war on drugs was praised by Trump early on in his term. The Southeast Asian country is an important and long-time regional ally of the U.S. but Duterte has moved closer to China since taking office."We look forward to working closely with the new administration of President-elect Biden anchored on mutual respect, mutual benefit, and shared commitment to democracy, freedom and the rule of law," a statement from Duterte's spokesperson said."Congratulations and we wish him all the best."