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‘Mission inconceivable’, ‘big aid’ and a ‘bittersweet victory’: World media reacts to Biden win

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Locals read a newspaper as residents of Ballina, Co. Mayo, Ireland, begin celebrations in the ancestral home of US Presidential candidate Joe Biden in anticipation of the results of the US election as Biden edges closer to victory over Donald Trump.

Brian Lawless | PA Images | Getty Images

International media erupted with headlines over the weekend announcing former Vice President Joe Biden’s win in the 2020 U.S. presidential race, many depicting the world breathing a sigh of relief after several tense days of a prolonged vote count. 

The opinion sections of several countries’ major newspapers lent a celebratory tone to the news, while others soberly described the stark challenges that confront the American president-elect facing a divided nation, ongoing partisan battling over results and a country engulfed by a pandemic. 

The U.K.’s Sunday Times ran the headline: “Sleepy Joe wakes up America,” a poke at incumbent President Donald Trump’s derogatory nickname for the 77-year-old Biden.

Many British papers focused on the enduring legacy of the now lame-duck Trump, who is refusing to accept Biden’s victory and is launching legal challenges in several states. 

“Donald Trump may have become one of the few US presidents to have lost re-election, but Trumpism lives on,” the U.K.’s BBC wrote.

Britain’s The Times described “joyous scenes after days of deadlock” across the U.S. after Biden’s win. But a featured opinion piece argued that for all of Trump’s “erratic, divisive behaviour, he will shape the country for decades to come.” 

The U.K.’s left-leaning Guardian newspaper didn’t hold back in its optimism; its donation appeal that appears at the end of its articles read: “Joe Biden has won… renewing hope for the US and the world,” touting “fresh promise for democracy and progress” after “four years of turmoil misinformation, manipulation and division.”

Its opinion writers described Trump’s defeat as “catastrophe averted” and “wonderful for the world, but trouble for Boris Johnson,” suggesting that the U.K. prime minister could be marginalized as Biden prioritizes reviving U.S. relations with the EU. 

‘Huge relief’ or ‘mission impossible’?

In France, major newspaper Le Monde wrote: “American Elections 2020: Joe Biden’s victory sparks huge relief in Europe.” Its homepage also highlighted the fallout in Trump camps: “Pro-Trump social networks between denial, discouragement and desire to do battle,” the article at the top of the site read. 

In this photo illustration German newspaper front pages show Sunday newspapers headlines following the projection by news outlets of Joe Biden as the winner of the recent U.S. presidential election on November 08, 2020 in Berlin, Germany.

Maja Hitij | Getty Images

Germany’s Der Spiegel wasted no time in pointing to the stark challenges facing a Biden administration. “Joe Biden’s Almost Impossible Task,” the front page headline read, describing the Democratic victory as a “ripple, not a wave.” 

“Even if Joe Biden emerges victorious,” the paper’s writers wrote, “the peaceful transfer of power still isn’t yet a foregone conclusion,” adding that “Biden would face the almost impossible task of reuniting a deeply divided nation.”

Sweden’s largest daily, Dagens Nyheter, titled its featured editorial piece: “Bittersweet victory – Biden will struggle to heal the US,” describing Biden’s pledge to return the U.S. to normalcy as “mission impossible” given how divided the massive country of 330 million is.  

Sweden’s more conservative Svenska Dagbladet warned of the risks posed by Trump supporters who believe the Trump narrative of a stolen election. “Election is over – but conflict continues,” its headline read.

Italian daily La Republicca ran an op-ed entitled: “Biden’s challenge: to unify the country and give it back the respect of the world.” Its headline cited Trump advisor and son-in-law Jared Kushner reportedly trying to convince Trump to accept the election verdict. 

‘War intensifies from here’

In Asia, India’s Economic Times also highlighted a fraught political battle that wasn’t yet over.

“Biden wins a battle for democracy, but war intensifies from here,” the website’s top article read. It also featured articles saying that Biden will likely improve the U.S. citizenship and visa situation for hundreds of thousands of Indians. Other Indian papers ran pieces celebrating Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’ Indian heritage. 

A man reads a morning newspaper showing a photograph of newly elected US President and Vice president Joe Bidenn at a tea stall in Chennai on November 8, 2020.

Arun Sankar | AFP | Getty Images

In China, state-owned China Daily ran the simple headline: “Biden declared president-elect as challenges loom.” Beijing has been fairly quiet on the topic of the election, but state outlets like CCTV have focused on the chaos surrounding the protracted vote count and acrimony between Trump and Biden supporters.   

Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post wrote that “Asian leaders see renewed hope in Biden and return to multilateralism.” Tensions with China hit multi-decade highs amid Trump’s trade war; still, political experts don’t expect Biden to take an easy line on China. “Biden likely to boost ties with Asian allies to keep Beijing in check, observers say,” read another SCMP article, whose writers expected U.S.-China tensions to remain.    

The Japan Times emphasized the lingering legacy of Trump’s presidency, running the headline: “Message of the U.S. election: Trump lost, but Trumpism did not.” It also highlighted the Japanese government’s desire to bolster bilateral ties with the U.S.

Predictability at last?

In Russia, the Moscow Times suggested a departure from Trump’s unpredictable behavior would be welcomed by the Kremlin, despite the oftentimes friendly relationship between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“It’s not that Biden would be much better in terms of Russian-U.S. relations, but at least he might bring a certain predictability to the dialogue,” the paper wrote.

The most-read article on Sunday in Russia’s business daily Kommersant wrote that “The only guaranteed outcome of the elections was the civil division, which, having hit the country four years ago, will continue to grow.”

Brazilian newspaper Folha de S.Paulo wrote that “Trump’s defeat punishes the attacks against civilisation, it is a lesson for Bolsonaro,” referring to Brazil’s own president Jair Bolsonaro, widely seen as a populist strongman with a brash and personality-led leadership style similar to Trump’s. 

Popular Mexican daily El Universal featured articles on the election titled: “Six reasons to celebrate Trump’s defeat,” and highlighted the controversy caused by Mexican President  Andrés Manuel López Obrador refraining from congratulating Biden until the electoral process was “finally concluded” out of “prudence.” Mexico was often used as a boogeyman in Trump’s campaigns and speeches, and the country was hit hard by his immigration, trade and border policies.

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Katherine Clark