US presidential election: China congratulates Joe Biden

(SCMP) – China has congratulated Joe Biden on being elected the next US president – a week after the Democratic candidate declared he had secured enough Electoral College votes to enter the White House.

“We respect the choice of the American people, and we express our congratulations to Mr Biden and Ms Harris,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said on Friday, referring to US Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris.

But Wang said China understood that the election results would be confirmed following procedures in accordance with US law.

Soon after Biden declared on Saturday that he had won the election, European leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, were among those to congratulate him.

But China did not send a message, prompting speculation that Beijing was waiting until the result had been confirmed officially so as not to appear to be favouring any side or risk getting embroiled in US domestic politics amid strained ties with Washington.

Lu Xiang, a US specialist at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said Beijing might have decided to congratulate Biden after the US media called the state of Arizona for him.

“China … congratulated the side with a recognised lead but also acknowledged that the other side has not made a concession yet,” Lu said. “The timing might be because the US media just called Arizona for Biden.”