After days of silence, China on Friday congratulated Joseph R. Biden Jr. on his election to president of the United States, signaling a start to its relations with the incoming administration after years of hostility and distrust under President Trump.
“We congratulate Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris,” Wang Wenbin, a spokesman for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said at a daily news conference, referring to Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. “We respect the choice of the American people.”
The Foreign Ministry had previously sidestepped the question of when it might comment publicly on Mr. Biden’s victory, saying it would respect American laws and procedures for determining the winner of the election.
Relations between China and the United States have deteriorated to their lowest point in decades during the Trump administration, which has taken confrontational stances on trade, technology, human rights, Taiwan and a host of other issues.
While the tone from American officials may become less strident under Mr. Biden, few expect him to reverse Mr. Trump’s policies on China right away. Mr. Biden’s views on China have hardened since he was vice president under President Barack Obama. On the campaign trail, Mr. Biden called the country’s top leader, Xi Jinping, “a thug.”
It remains unclear what actions Mr. Trump might take toward China in the final weeks of his presidency. On Thursday, he issued an executive order barring Americans from investing in several companies with ties to the Chinese military, a step closer to decoupling American capital markets from China.
Even though Mr. Xi and other officials had been silent on the election outcome, the state-controlled news media in China have been covering the process actively. Commentaries have expressed hope that Mr. Biden would help cool tensions despite unresolved differences on several political issues including the democracy movement in Hong Kong.