Chinese State Media: We’re Not Calling Biden ‘President-Elect’ Yet

BEIJING, CHINA - DECEMBER 04: Chinese President Xi Jinping (R) shake hands with U.S Vice President Joe Biden (L) inside the Great Hall of the People on December 4, 2013 in Beijing, China. U.S Vice President Joe Biden will pay an official visit to China from December 4 to 5. …
Lintao Zhang/Getty Images

China’s state-run Global Times stressed on Friday that congratulatory messages from Chinese officials to former Vice President Joe Biden are meant to show “utmost respect to U.S. laws, election rules, all parties, and voters,” but that top Chinese leaders will not send official congratulations until “official results are released” from the 2020 U.S. election.

The Global Times criticized American media outlets like the Washington Post for headlines such as “China Finally Congratulates Joe Biden, Kamala Harris on Election Victory,” accusing them of jumping to conclusions about the Chinese government’s position on the contested American election:

Li Haidong, a professor at the Institute of International Relations of the China Foreign Affairs University, told the Global Times on Friday that “by calling Biden ‘Mr.’ rather than ‘president-elect,’ the remarks showed that China is still being cautious. On the one hand, China acknowledged that Biden and Harris have taken a clear advantage in the election; on the other hand, China also showed respect to President [Donald] Trump and his voters, who are still challenging the result with lawsuits and other measures.”

In the past, China’s top leaders’ congratulations were sent once a candidate conceded. But Trump refuses to accept the result. According to the Xinhua News Agency, on November 9, 2016, Chinese President Xi Jinping congratulated Donald Trump as the president-elect, the same night that Trump declared his victory and Democrat candidate Hillary Clinton delivered a concession speech.

Unless Trump accepts the results or the electoral college votes in December, or if Congress makes the final call in January in case disputes remain, the top leaders of China will unlikely extend formal congratulations to the president-elect, said Lü Xiang, a research fellow on US studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing.

The Global Times found time to slip in a jab from Professor Li against U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for “still provoking China” with his public remarks, particularly a speech Pompeo gave on Tuesday at the Ronald Reagan Institute.

“China is cautiously handling its ties with the next administration, so we hope Trump can understand China’s sincerity and not make any further trouble for China-U.S. ties,” Li told the Global Times on Friday.

Pompeo also irked Beijing by telling a radio interviewer on Thursday that “Taiwan has not been a part of China” in the view of American policymakers since the Reagan administration. 

The Chinese Foreign Ministry came close to threatening a military attack on Taiwan in retaliation for Pompeo’s comments, while the Global Times settled for goading the Trump administration by threatening that the more “provocations” it makes, the more “connections and recognitions from China will be extended to Biden’s team.”

“This could minimize the damage that the Trump administration would bring to China-U.S. relations, and also distance the crazy remarks made by officials like Pompeo from the official U.S. stance,” the Global Times suggested.

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