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As Joe Biden's election victory nears, the world hopes for an end to American isolationism

USDemocratic presidential nominee Joe Biden speaks about election results in Wilmington, Delaware. Picture: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

USDemocratic presidential nominee Joe Biden speaks about election results in Wilmington, Delaware. Picture: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

Published Nov 7, 2020


By Shibani Mahtani

With Joe Biden in the driver's seat to win the presidency, countries around the world are trying to ascertain what a Democratic administration would mean for them.

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Many hope the period of American isolationism under President Trump will give way to an era of renewed U.S. global leadership and embrace of multilateralism to tackle common challenges.

Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison, when asked Saturday about the relationship with a future Biden administration, said the Australia-US alliance is "bigger than any one individual." Morrison, a conservative, said he would wait for the vote count to be over and then get on with working with Washington. Morrison and Trump have long been close; in 2019, Trump asked the Australian leader to help him amid the Mueller investigation.

Frank Bainimarama, the prime minister of Fiji, was among the first to congratulate Biden outright, saying in a tweet that they must work together to save the planet from a climate emergency and rebuild the global economy.

"Now, more than ever, we need the USA at the helm of these multilateral efforts (and back in the #ParisAgreement - ASAP!)," he wrote.

In Japan, a burger outlet near a U.S. naval base followed a long tradition of naming a burger after every sitting American president by adding the Biden Burger to its menu. The owner began serving the Trump burger four years ago and wanted to be ready for the impending result as the vote count nears a conclusion, according to public broadcaster NHK.

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As the Democratic candidate extended his vote lead in key battleground states, newspapers around the world began analyzing the policy implications under a Biden administration.

The Times of India, which effectively declared Biden the winner with the headline "Bye Don, It's Biden Finally," said that H1-B work visas are unlikely to return in their previous scale or numbers, even if the Biden administration has a more favorable immigration policy. But it noted that the Democrats could be stronger on human rights violations in India. The newspaper also looked at celebrations in Sen. Kamala D. Harris' ancestral village, where residents were feeling festive ahead of the traditional Diwali celebrations.

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In China, whose relations with the United States have plummeted to their lowest ebb in 40 years amid bitter disputes over trade, technology, human rights and the coronavirus pandemic, some have hoped that, despite fundamental differences, a Biden win might act as a circuit-breaker and offer a window for cooperation in certain areas.

From Beijing's perspective, "a Biden presidency is more likely to put a floor under the current free-fall in relations, judging by his recent remarks on China and those of his foreign policy advisers," wrote Wang Xiangwei, a columnist and editorial adviser at the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post. Chinese officials, he said, are hoping for at least a short-term respite to the vitriol that has dominated Sino-U.S. relations under Trump.

Still, an op-ed in the nationalistic Global Times tabloid noted deep partisan divisions in the United States that it said would not be easily eased.

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"The US will remain united from outside but divided from within, no matter who is president," wrote Zhang Jiadong, a professor at the Center for American Studies at Fudan University.

Elsewhere, with Trump still seemingly determined to contest the election results in court, some expressed fears for what he might unleash, even if he eventually concedes.

In Britain, the left-leaning Guardian newspaper declared Trump in a "fight against reality," but noted in an editorial that Biden would have his work cut out to "rebuild the U.S. government's credibility after Trumpism hollowed out its institutions."

"He will have to reassert America's role as the global problem-solver," it said. "Under Mr. Trump the 'indispensable nation' disappeared when it was needed the most."

Others mocked Trump's efforts to remain in power. "One small hand clinging to everything except reality," read the front page of the Saturday Paper in Australia.

The Japanese government, meanwhile, warned its nationals in the United States that they may become caught up in election-related violence, and told people to take precautions, including "considering whether it is appropriate to travel to work while protests continue," according to the Mainichi newspaper.

The Trump brand continued to find support among those on the far right who similarly advocate for isolationist policies. Nigel Farage, who leads the U.K.'s Brexit party, wrote in an opinion piece that he believed Trump is right to "keep up the fight," and repeated the president's untruths that widespread postal voting is problematic and open to fraud.