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China’s President Xi Jinping sends delayed congratulations to Biden

Chinese President Xi Jinping has congratulated President-elect Joe Biden, state media reported on Wednesday, becoming one of the last world leaders to do so.

Two-and-a-half weeks after Biden was declared president-elect, Xinhua news agency reported that Xi sent a message saying he hoped that China and U.S. will “uphold the spirit of non-conflict, non-confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation” as well as focus on advancing “healthy and stable development of China-U.S. ties.”

Xi’s message to Biden comes just days after the Trump administration officially authorized the Biden transition after weeks of delay, even as Trump’s legal team is continuing its fight to overturn the results of the election.

Unlike America’s traditional allies who rushed to congratulate president-elect, China was one of several countries, including North Korea, Russia and Brazil, whose leaders did not immediately acknowledge Biden’s win as President Donald Trump refused to concede the election, baselessly claiming that voter fraud occurred.

However, the country’s foreign ministry did extend congratulations to Biden on Nov. 13, saying China “respects the choice of the American people” in a terse statement that contrasted with an enthusiastic message from the country’s leader after Trump won four years ago.

Xi congratulated Trump on Nov. 9, 2016 — within a day of his being declared the winner.

“I attach great importance to Sino-U.S. relations and look forward to working with you,” Xinhua news agency reported Xi saying at the time.

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Before the U.S. election, China said it did not wish to get involved in the internal affairs of other countries.

Relations between China and the U.S. have grown increasingly tense during the Trump administration with major disputes around trade, coronavirus pandemic, arms sales to Taiwan, China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea and Beijing’s increasing global assertiveness.

But while Trump’s rhetoric toward China has turned sour, Biden may be ready to take a tough line, having previously referred to Xi as a “thug.”

Analysts expect a Biden presidency to focus on reported human rights abuses of Uighurs, Hong Kong’s waning autonomy and the return of America to a path of multilateralism.

Yuliya Talmazan reported from London. Eric Baculinao from Beijing.

Image: Yuliya TalmazanYuliya Talmazan

Yuliya Talmazan is a London-based journalist.

Eric Baculinao

Eric Baculinao is a producer based in Beijing. A long-term resident of Beijing who is fluent in Chinese, Baculiano scans Chinese news daily for hints of major new policy trends and insights into the workings of China’s secretive Communist Party and government leadership.  

Dawn Liu contributed.

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