China finally congratulates Joe Biden for winning US election

Country recognises Democratic candidate defeated Donald Trump almost a week after result declared

Wang Wenbin
‘We respect the choice of the American people,’ said foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin, pictured. Photograph: Liu Zheng/AP

China has extended congratulations to the US president-elect, Joe Biden, becoming one of the last countries to acknowledge his electoral victory over Donald Trump.

On Friday, nearly a week after Biden was declared the winner, foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin commended the Democratic candidate and his running mate, Kamala Harris.

“We respect the choice of the American people. We extend congratulations to Mr Biden and Ms Harris,” he said at a regular press briefing. “We understand the results of the US election will be determined according to US laws and procedures.”

The comments stand in contrast to when the Chinese leader, Xi Jinping, personally congratulated Trump on his 2016 win the day after the election, and highlight uncertainty in ties between the two global powers.

Observers say the delay is probably the result of Beijing treading with caution as Trump refuses to concede the election. The US-China relationship has reached its lowest point in decades and there appears to be tentative optimism that tensions will ease slightly under a new administration.

In a speech earlier this week, the US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, said the White House was “not finished yet” with tough measures on China. Describing the ruling Chinese Communist party as a “Marxist-Leninist monster”, he vowed to continue pressing China for change.

Trump, with two months left in his term, signed an executive order on Thursday barring US investment in some Chinese firms with military links. In a radio interview on Thursday, Pompeo said Taiwan, which Beijing claims is part of its territory, “has not been part of China”. The remarks prompted Beijing to threaten “a resolute counterattack”.

The US has also criticised Beijing for passing legislation enabling the immediate disqualification of four pro-democracy lawmakers in Hong Kong, triggering a mass resignation of opposition figures in the legislature. In a statement on Thursday, Beijing said the measure was “the right medicine” for Hong Kong, in order to “start a new chapter ensuring smooth operation” of the legislature.