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World Leaders React To Biden's Presidential Win


In his victory speech last night, President-elect Joe Biden noted that U.S. elections are viewed far beyond our borders.


JOE BIDEN: Tonight, the whole world is watching America. And I believe at our best, America's a beacon for the globe.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: The world is indeed watching, in some cases holding off on congratulating Biden just yet in a bid to avoid being collateral damage. For instance, Mexico's president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, has flat-out said he will not congratulate Biden, at least not until, quote, "all legal matters have been resolved." But some leaders around the world, even some controversial allies of President Trump, have been congratulating the president-elect.

Given Saturday's big news, where do America's trade and security partners and challengers like Middle Eastern and European countries and China stand? We're going to check in now with NPR correspondents who cover those places. Daniel Estrin is in Jerusalem. Eleanor Beardsley is in Paris. And John Ruwitch is currently watching China from California.

Welcome to you all.



GARCIA-NAVARRO: I'm going to start with you, Daniel, because Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is perhaps Donald Trump's closest world ally. He congratulated Biden by tweet. What did he say?

ESTRIN: Right. He said he's had a warm personal relationship with Biden for almost 40 years and that Biden is a good friend of Israel. He also tweeted his thanks to Trump. And Netanyahu weighed in much longer after other leaders did. That could be because Netanyahu has been very close to Trump. Remember, Netanyahu has been very closely aligned with not only Trump, but the GOP - his evangelical base as well. Also, the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, congratulated Biden, and Palestinians expect Biden to be much friendlier to them than Trump was. They hope that Biden will restore, for instance, the U.S. aid that Trump cut.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: President Trump also had close ties with some Arab leaders. I'm thinking Saudi Arabia in particular. But where has that stood? Who's congratulating Biden?

ESTRIN: Well, several Arab leaders have. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi claims he was the very first leader to congratulate Trump four years ago, and he very quickly has congratulated Biden now. You know, Trump was very supportive of Sisi, despite his record of human rights abuses, and now Sisi's positioning himself to seek favor with Biden. We also heard from the United Arab Emirates congratulating Biden. And remember, the UAE gave Trump a big boost and agreed to open diplomatic relations with Israel.

Now, the one country we have not heard from yet is Saudi Arabia. The crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, was very close to Trump, especially close to his son-in-law Jared Kushner. You know, Trump was accused of giving the Saudis a free pass about the war in Yemen, about human rights abuses, the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. And Biden has made it very clear throughout his campaign that he would reassess the U.S. relationship with the Saudis. And here we are. You know, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia congratulated the president of Tanzania yesterday for reelection - crickets on Biden, however.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: OK. Eleanor, you're in Paris, and there's a little more of a consensus in Europe, where Trump has had strained relations with many of their leaders, right?

BEARDSLEY: Absolutely, Lulu. You know, there's huge relief among Europe's main democracies - supporters of multilateralism like France and Germany. President Macron of France reached out immediately by Twitter and said, let's work together again. Chancellor Angela Merkel said, our trans-Atlantic friendship is indispensable if we're to deal with the major challenges of our time. And even the mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, tweeted, welcome back, America, an allusion to us rejoining - you know, the U.S. rejoining the Paris climate accord.

You know, remember, Emmanuel Macron was the first leader in Europe to really reach out to Trump. He tried to, as he said, keep him within the community of nations. He wined and dined him in the Eiffel Tower. He gave him that Bastille Day military (inaudible), but none of it worked. Trump pulled out of the Paris climate accord anyway.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So what does Biden offer that's new to some of these longtime U.S. allies?

BEARDSLEY: Well, aside from, you know, disagreement over the climate accord, you know, Trump tore up the Iran nuclear agreement that the Europeans had so meticulously negotiated. They had much faith in it. He also regularly criticized NATO, which has been a pillar of U.S.-European relations since 1949 when it was founded. You know, he said that the Europeans weren't paying their fair share. He even threatened to pull out. He had just a range of disdainful comments about his - you know, America's supposed allies.

So Europeans say a Biden presidency means a return to statesmanship and decorum and normalcy in relations between the trans-Atlantic allies. And one concrete example - Biden has already said that the day he takes office, he will bring the U.S. back into the Paris climate accord.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: OK. And now we're going to turn to China because this has, of course, been a signature relationship for the Trump administration. John, what have we heard from China?

JOHN RUWITCH, BYLINE: We have heard nothing from China yet. Other major capitals in Asia have weighed in. We've heard from Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, but not China. Chinese state media has run a few stories about the news out of the U.S., but nothing from the government. Four years ago - so this stands in contrast - when Trump was elected, they were pretty quick. Xi Jinping, leader - the leader of China, offered congratulations.

But this time around, it's obviously different, right? Trump hasn't conceded. The domestic political situation in America is pretty fluid. And China sees that. They're playing it very cautiously, and they don't want to be seen as interfering. One more thing that I think may be on their mind is that they don't want to antagonize Trump. He's got over two months left in office. U.S.-China relations have been pretty rocky and in freefall, basically, for the second half of this year, and they really don't want things to worsen.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right. Well, looking forward, Trump has claimed throughout the campaign that Biden would go easy on China. Biden has denied that. What do you see happening here? Do Chinese leaders have doubts about him?

RUWITCH: Yeah, there is - you know, the backdrop is that there's growing bipartisan agreement here in the U.S. - right? - for the need to face China as a competitor and to do it with strength. And on the campaign trail, Biden said he'd do that on trade, on intellectual property, human rights, a range of other issues. And his rhetoric has showed it. He knows Xi Jinping, leader of China. They met several times when they were both vice presidents, and they reportedly got along. But lately he's been calling Xi a, quote, "thug."

You know, I think a Biden administration's likely to have more discipline in its approach to China. Trump was a bit scattershot. Biden on the campaign trail has pledged to coordinate with allies, you know, in applying pressure on China. That means Europe, which we just heard about, and friends in Asia. He's going to reengage with multilateral organizations, but it's not going to all be adversarial. The Biden administration will be looking for areas where they can cooperate with China, like in controlling the pandemic and on climate change. So China may get more stability...

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And North Korea.

RUWITCH: And North Korea, exactly. China may get a bit more stability and predictability, but Biden won't necessarily be a pushover.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That is NPR's Eleanor Beardsley in Paris with John Ruwitch here in the U.S. and Daniel Estrin from Jerusalem. All over the world, our correspondents. Thank you all very much.

ESTRIN: You're welcome.

RUWITCH: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Eleanor Beardsley began reporting from France for NPR in 2004 as a freelance journalist, following all aspects of French society, politics, economics, culture and gastronomy. Since then, she has steadily worked her way to becoming an integral part of the NPR Europe reporting team.
Daniel Estrin is NPR's international correspondent in Jerusalem.
John Ruwitch is a correspondent with NPR's international desk. He covers Chinese affairs.
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