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Joe Biden's win prompts global relief rather than enthusiasm, experts tell GBJ students


Global Business Journalism reporter

People around the globe don’t have high hopes for the U.S. President-elect Joe Biden, but in a critical time he was the favored choice for reasons that varied from country to country.

Kristiina Helenius

“Most people are terrified by what is happening and what it means for the world,” Kristiina Helenius, the CEO of Nordic West USA, told Global Business Journalism students on Oct. 6 as part of a panel discussion of the global implications of the U.S elections. “Europeans are expecting Biden to guide the ship safely to the shore,”

Donald Trump’s presidency roiled America’s relations with friends and rivals alike. Trump alienated allies, turned his back on global human rights violations, withdrew from global agreements, including the Paris climate deal, and stoked trade tensions. Such “Trumpist” strategies made people doubt the historical role of the U.S. as a multinational leader.

“The reputation of the U.S has gone down,” said Helenius. “It has lost much of the glamor of the American dream.”

She added that people in Europe are expecting the defeated president to be reconciled to reality eventually, noting that the number of “Trumpists” in Europe has declined over time.

In the Middle East, where Trump was hailed as a hero in certain states after convincing three Arab states to open diplomatic and economic ties with Israel, Iranians continue to have reservations about him

“For most of the Iranians he is an unreliable person who just offers words,” said Akram Shabaani, an economic reporter from Iran.

She said Biden, who is considered tougher on Iran than former President Barack Obama, might not be the ideal option, but he would play a more positive role than Trump in improving lives of Iranians.

Shastri Ramachandaran, an international affairs analyst from India, views Biden, who has served as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, as a leader with a better grip of international affairs than Trump. Unlike Trump, he said, Biden would embrace globalization and free trade.

That viewed is strongly echoed by European observers. Whether it’s his support for Brexit Britain or his trade war with China, Trump broke the system that people relied on for years.

“Protectionism has really hurt trade,” said Helenius.

Biden might now be a leader with a long-term vision, according to Helenius, who added that many people in Europe view him as a “mediocre leader” but see him as a reliable, benign figure.

Likewise, while an "average" Chinese person might not be excited for a Biden presidency, his victory offers new hope for a frayed relationship, one analyst said.

“If Biden wins it would be a boost for the U.S.-China relations,” said Liu Yunyun, an associate executive editor at Beijing Review.

While she said that it might take 50 years to fully restore relations between two superpowers, both leaders would be able to talk on issues like climate change.

Globally, analysts are still questioning how Biden as a President would be able to “make America respected again.”

“The biggest shift would be re-embracing the American allies,” Fareed Zakaria, an American author and international relations analyst, said at the International Center for Journalists’ 2020 tribute to journalism.

Fareed Zakaria at the International Center for Journalists' Salute to Journalists 2020

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