The world is watching as Biden assumes office, Trump era ends

President Biden at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 20. (Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)

As President Biden took his oath of office Wednesday, bringing the Trump era to a close after the most tumultuous presidential transition in living memory, world leaders and top officials, along with ordinary people across the globe, looked on with rapt attention — and in many cases optimism.

Some leaders and officials have reached out to embrace the incoming Biden administration, offering congratulations and speaking of their hopes for cooperation, especially on issues that fell by the wayside under President Donald Trump, such as climate change. Most took a somewhat reserved tone, but a few, including some U.S. rivals, were more vociferous.

“Good Riddance, Donald Trump!” China’s state news agency Xinhua wrote on Twitter.

Others echoed widespread alarm and fears for U.S. democracy that spread in the wake of the violence at the Capitol this month. “Five years ago, we thought Trump was a bad joke, but five years later we realized he jeopardized nothing less than the world’s most powerful democracy,” Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said Wednesday.

Here’s how world leaders, top officials and other international figures have responded to the handover of power in Washington.

‘Warmest congratulations’

World leaders rushed to offer good wishes to Biden and Vice President Harris.

Boris Johnson

British prime minister

“America’s leadership is vital on the issues that matter to us all,” Johnson wrote Wednesday.

He told Parliament earlier in the day that he welcomed the chance to work with the incoming Biden administration on “shared priorities: from tackling climate change, building back better from the pandemic and strengthening our transatlantic security.”

Narendra Modi

Indian prime minister

The Indian leader wrote a series of messages to Biden on Twitter, offering his “warmest congratulations.”

“The India-US partnership is based on shared values,” Modi wrote. “We have a substantial and multifaceted bilateral agenda, growing economic engagement and vibrant people to people linkages.”

Benjamin Netanyahu

Israeli prime minister

“President Biden, you and I have had a warm personal friendship going back many decades,” Netanyahu said in the statement. “I look forward to working with you to further strengthen the U.S.-Israel alliance, to continue expanding peace between Israel and the Arab world and to confront common challenges, chief among them the threat posed by Iran.”

Justin Trudeau

Canadian prime minister

“Canada and the United States enjoy one of the most unique relationships in the world, built on a shared commitment to democratic values, common interests, and strong economic and security ties. Our two countries are more than neighbors — we are close friends, partners, and allies,” Trudeau said in a statement.

Bi-khim Hsiao

Taiwanese envoy to Washington

Bi-khim Hsiao, representative of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in Washington, was among the guests at the Biden inauguration Wednesday.

“Democracy is our common language, and freedom is our common objective. I look forward to working with the next administration in advancing our mutual values and interest,” Hsiao said in a video message to her Twitter account.

Hsiao serves as Taiwan’s de facto ambassador to the United States, as the two do not have formal diplomatic relations.

Simon Coveney

Irish foreign minister

Simon Coveney, who serves in the Irish government as minister for foreign affairs and defense, sent a message of congratulations to Biden on Wednesday, emphasizing the Irish American politician’s family history and suggesting a visit to Ireland.

“We hope to welcome him to his ancestral home early in his Presidency,” Coveney tweeted. “He has always been a friend to Ireland & we look forward to working with him on strengthening Irish/US relations & much more.”

Coveney also congratulated Harris on “her historic achievement as she is inaugurated as the first woman, and first woman of colour, to hold the office of US Vice President.”

Ursula von der Leyen

President of the European Commission

In televised remarks Wednesday, the leaders of the European Union greeted Biden’s impending inauguration with joy and relief, as one declared that the United States was rejoining “the circle of like-minded states.”

“It will be a message of hope for a world that is waiting for the U.S. to be back in the circle of like-minded states,” von der Leyen told the European Parliament. “This new dawn in America is the moment we have been waiting for, for so long.”

‘Lies of the century’

Some leaders, officials and activists directed final missives to the outgoing Trump administration.

Hua Chunying

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman

Although Chinese leader Xi Jinping has not commented on the handover of power, a spokeswoman for China’s Foreign Ministry offered a cautious welcome to the incoming Biden administration Wednesday.

“We hope the new U.S. administration will work together with China, with mutual respect, properly handle differences and conduct more win-win cooperation in more sectors,” Hua Chunying said at a daily news briefing.

Hua also used the briefing to criticize the Trump administration, and in particular outgoing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, for its decision Tuesday to label the persecution of ethnic Uighurs in China a genocide — calling the former U.S. diplomat “a doomsday clown and joke of the century.”

Shortly after Biden was inaugurated, the Chinese Foreign Ministry announced it was placing sanctions on Pompeo and other former members of the Trump administration.

Vladimir Putin

Russian president

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov shrugged off the prospect of diplomatic differences under Biden, who is expected to take a tougher line with Moscow.

“Nothing will change for Russia. Russia will continue to live just the way it has lived for hundreds of years, seeking good relations with the U.S.,” Peskov said Wednesday. “Whether Washington has reciprocal political will for that will depend on Mr. Biden and his team.”

Putin was one of the last world leaders to congratulate Biden on his election win, and Peskov suggested there were no plans for a conversation between the two world leaders.

“No, not yet. You know that they’re having some problems there in the United States, and so they’re definitely dealing with their own problems at home now,” Peskov said about future phone calls.

Mohammad Javad Zarif

Iranian foreign minister

Iran’s top diplomat took aim at Trump and Pompeo in a tweet Wednesday, writing that they had been “relegated to the dustbin of history in disgrace.”

But Zarif pointed to the U.S. killing of Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani last year under the Trump administration, as well as what he described as terrorism and “crimes against humanity” committed under his leadership, which he said would “shine on.”

“Perhaps new folks in DC have learned,” Zarif added.

In televised remarks earlier Wednesday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani had expressed hope that Biden would reverse Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal.

Greta Thunberg

Swedish climate activist

Thunberg, a teenage climate activist from Sweden, offered a mocking goodbye for Trump on Wednesday morning, referencing the message the president had written about her in September 2019 after she was named Time’s Person of the Year.

“He seems like a very happy old man looking forward to a bright and wonderful future,” Thunberg wrote next to a photograph of Trump leaving the White House. “So nice to see!”

‘The ball is in the court of Washington today’

In many foreign capitols, Biden’s inauguration sparked hope for improved relations and a change in direction for U.S. foreign policy.

Emmanuel Macron

French president

Macron offered well-wishes to Biden and Harris on Twitter on Wednesday. “We will be stronger to face the challenges of our time. Stronger to build our future. Stronger to protect our planet,” he wrote. “Welcome back to the Paris Agreement!” — a reference to the international climate accord.

In a speech Tuesday, Macron also said he hoped that Biden would show a greater military commitment than Trump did to the fight Islamist extremists around the world, especially in the Middle East.

Pedro Sánchez

Spanish prime minister

The Spanish prime minister said the inauguration of Biden “represents the victory of democracy over the ultra-right and its three methods, the massive deception, the national division and the abuse, even violent, of democratic institutions.”

“Five years ago, we thought Trump was a bad joke, but five years later we realized he jeopardized nothing less than the world’s most powerful democracy,” said Sánchez, speaking at a public event in Madrid.

Frank-Walter Steinmeier

German president

Steinmeier said he was “relieved” at the prospect of a Biden administration.

“I know that this feeling is shared by many people in Germany,” he said in a video message, calling it a “good day for democracy.”

“Despite all the joy we have about today, we must not forget that populism has seduced the most powerful democracy in the world,” he said.

Pope Francis

The pope offered his congratulations to Biden and Harris in a statement Wednesday, expressing hope that the United States could find “understanding, reconciliation and peace.”

“At a time when the grave crises facing our human family call for farsighted and united responses, I pray that your decisions will be guided by a concern for building a society marked by authentic justice and freedom, together with unfailing respect for the rights and dignity of every person, especially the poor, the vulnerable and those who have no voice,” the statement read.

Jair Bolsonaro

Brazilian president

Brazil’s far-right leader, a vocal supporter of Trump who repeated unfounded theories about fraud in the U.S. election, Wednesday added his voice to the chorus of welcome for Biden, telling the incoming U.S. leader he was ready to work together for “the prosperity of our nations and the well-being of our citizens.”

Bolsonaro also shared a letter he had written to Biden in which he said he hoped that a U.S.-Brazil free trade agreement could be reached.

This report has been updated.

Photo editing by Chloe Coleman. Design by J.C. Reed. Story editing by Benjamin Soloway. Copy editing by Carey L. Biron.

Michael Birnbaum in Riga, Latvia, Amanda Coletta in Toronto, Robyn Dixon in Moscow, Chico Harlan in Rome, Steve Hendrix in Jerusalem, Ana Herrero in Caracas, Venezuela, Loveday Morris in Berlin, Rick Noack in Paris, Paul Schemm in Dubai and Joanna Slater in New Delhi contributed to this report.

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