He has withdrawn the United States from multilateral agreements, including the Paris climate accord and Iran nuclear deal, and set in motion a U.S. pullout from the World Health Organization amid a global pandemic. On other fronts, Trump has started several trade wars, restricted immigration and curtailed refugee resettlement.
Trump knows the world is watching. “China wants me out, Iran wants me out, Germany wants me out, they all want me out,” he said at a campaign rally Saturday. “But here we are, right?”
Biden has said that one of his first acts as president would be to “get on the phone with the heads of state and say, ‘America’s back, you can count on us.’ ”
But Biden also noted that the United States — and the world — needs patience as the votes are tallied, including many mail-in ballots. He said in Wilmington, Del., that he will wait until “there’s something to talk about” — which could be a day or more after polls close.
Europe holds its breath, Russia warns of chaos
Russian hopes for a Trump victory were reflected by pro-Kremlin media, which emphasized the idea that U.S. democracy is fraying, facing likely post-election violence or wider internal conflicts.
In Europe, where Trump is deeply unpopular in most countries, some looked to the potential for a transatlantic reset. Others viewed U.S. political fissures with worry.
“Hatred has found its way into the [U.S.] political system. There is no longer a center, only polarization,” tweeted the chairman of the German parliament’s foreign affairs committee, Norbert Röttgen.
In private, European leaders said they were bracing for uncertainty. One senior European official sent a “fingers crossed” emoji when asked about the election. The official sent the message on the condition of anonymity for fear of incurring Trump’s wrath.
Many media outlets abroad are covering the election much as they would national elections in their own countries. The German newspaper Bild built an Oval Office replica from which to broadcast online coverage.
Canada to Brazil: Trade, aid and the Amazon
In Canada, citizens and lawmakers have been keeping an anxious eye on what the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. called the country’s “second-favorite spectator sport.”
On the southern border, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador declined to comment on the election, saying that would constitute interference in the neighboring country’s affairs. Carlos Puig, a columnist for Mexico’s national Milenio daily, looked ahead to a possible Biden administration and wondered about the “reaction of the Trumpian base.”
Allies of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who has made stronger ties with Trump the cornerstone of his foreign policy, warned that a victory for Biden would jeopardize Brazil’s dominion over the Amazon rainforest. Biden has threatened economic costs if Brazil does not slow deforestation.
China looks for change
As results rolled in, Chinese state media covered the U.S. election disparagingly.
State-run tabloid Global Times declared the election looked like one in a developing nation. Ming Jinwei, deputy foreign editor of the state-run Xinhua News Agency, described the United States as “without hope.”
“It is clear that the United States has problems with national competitiveness and social governance capacity, and that it needs serious and profound internal reforms,” said a Global Times editorial, applying Chinese Communist Party lingo in its description of the United States.
By midmorning Wednesday, #USelection had been viewed 3.4 billion times on Chinese social platform Weibo.
Many analysts predicted that a Biden win could usher in a diplomatic respite. But some were also gloomy about the long-term prospects for China-U.S. relations.
“We hope after Biden comes back, we can at least resume high-level dialogue,” said Ding Yifan, a former adviser to China’s cabinet. “Biden wants to compete with China but also collaborate, and that’s how we frame the relationship, too. To see the democratic system in the world’s most powerful country go off the rails is not a good thing."
Asian stocks were mixed Wednesday, with Tokyo up strongly, but Hong Kong, Shanghai and Sydney trading relatively flat as investors awaited the U.S. outcome.
In Hong Kong, where many pro-democracy protesters see Trump as a check against Chinese oppression, prominent YouTubers produced their own live-streamed commentary and analysis of the U.S. election results. In one video with 15,000 viewers, many commented in support of Trump.
Pro-Beijing politicians, meanwhile, were mixed in their support for both Biden and Trump, but many have said that Trump will exacerbate America’s internal divisions.
In Taiwan, some are worried that Biden would go too far down the path of conciliating China.
Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said the election outcome would make no difference to Tehran’s foreign policy, and he mocked Trump for predicting fraudulent results in his own election. “This shows the ugly face of liberal democracy within American society,” he said.
Hoping for more Trump
In India, where Trump found a friend in the Hindu nationalist prime minister, Narendra Modi, right-wing leaning, pro-government groups are hoping for a second term — despite the Indian origins of Biden’s running mate Kamala D. Harris. One fringe group, the Hindu Army, even hosted a prayer ceremony to boost Trump’s chances as the polls opened. “Donald Trump is the savior of humanity,” said Vishnu Gupta, the president of the controversial outfit that has often had run-ins with the law.
Israeli settlers in the West Bank also gathered to pray for Trump’s reelection. Settler leaders have expressed concern that a Trump loss could mean a backpedaling of the U.S. Embassy move to Jerusalem and renewed U.S. criticism of Jewish settlements in the West Bank.
For some world leaders, the Trump years have meant moments of opportunity, particularly for like-minded, right-leaning nationalists. Several such politicians have expressed their hope that Trump will be reelected, including the leaders of Hungary, Brazil, the Philippines and Slovenia.
“Go, win, @realDonaldTrump,” tweeted Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa from the home country of first lady Melania Trump.
Worried for America
Many international observers expressed fears for U.S. democracy and whether it could withstand the strain of the country’s deep rifts. Trump has refused to commit to relinquishing power if he loses, and some U.S. allies spoke about the vote in terms often reserved for fragile democracies.
“I hope for an outcome like what we have learned from the Americans: that the rules of democracy are accepted by everyone,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told the Tagesspiegel newspaper on Sunday.
John Hewson, former leader of the conservative Liberal Party in Australia, said the election exposed a “fiction” of the perception of the United States as the world’s leading democracy, while Nigerian journalist Mary-Ann Duke Okon tweeted that the U.S. media “is sounding like they’re reporting on Africa’s elections.”
In New Zealand, where Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has overseen an effective response to the coronavirus pandemic, “there is clearly a lot of conversation happening about how the two countries couldn’t be more different right now,” said Jennifer Curtin, director of the Public Policy Institute at the University of Auckland.
Ardern, 40, won reelection last month and named a remarkably diverse cabinet this week, adding to the contrast between the two countries, Curtin said.
Curtin planned to order New York-style pizza, consult her electoral map and host a small gathering in her Auckland home to watch the results roll in. But most Kiwi observers are wary to predict the results, she said, recalling Trump’s poll-defying win in 2016.
This time, she said, “everybody’s just holding their breath."
Slater reported from New Delhi, Shih from Taipei, Noack from Berlin and Taylor and O’Grady from Washington. Robyn Dixon in Moscow; Danielle Paquette in Dakar, Senegal; Paul Schemm in Dubai; Theodora Yu and Shibani Mahtani in Hong Kong; Taniya Dutt in New Delhi; Steve Hendrix and Shira Rubin in Jerusalem; Eva Dou in Seoul; Jennifer Hassan in London; Michael Birnbaum in Riga, Latvia; Amanda Coletta in Toronto; Loveday Morris in Berlin; Terrence McCoy in Rio de Janeiro; Simon Denyer in Tokyo and Niha Masih in New Delhi contributed to this report.