Shedding its initial hesitation, China on Friday finally congratulated US President-elect Joe Biden and his deputy Kamala Harris for their victory in the 2020 US presidential election and said Beijing respects the choice of the American people.
"We have been following reactions on the US elections from both within the US and the international community," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told a media briefing in Beijing when informed that more world leaders, as well as United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres, have congratulated 77-year-old Joe Biden.
"We respect the American people's choice and we extend congratulations to Biden and Harris and we understand that the result of the US presidential elections will be determined following the US laws and procedures," news agency PTI quoted Wang Wenbin as saying.
China congratulated Biden almost a week after Biden, a Democrat, defeated Republican incumbent President Donald Trump to become the next White House occupant.
On November 9, Wang had refused to congratulate Biden on his victory, saying the outcome of the American election should be determined by the country's laws and procedures.
He, however, was more forthcoming on the victory of Harris as the first woman Vice President-elect.
When reminded about Chinese President Xi Jinping's statement calling for greater gender equality in a recent UN conference on women and on the question whether China has any comment on Harris, Wang quoted a Chinese saying which states "women hold half of the sky," news agency PTI reported.
"In China, there is a saying that women hold half of the sky. China has been committed to realising gender equality and advancing women's development around the world," he said.
Trump's four years in power saw deteriorating China-US relations as the ruling Communist Party of China headed by President Xi struggled to deal with what China's officials say is the most "elusive and unpredictable American leader ever" since the former US president Richard Nixon in 1972 established ties with the Communist nation.
During his tenure, Trump pushed aggressively on all aspects of US-China ties, including with his relentless trade war, challenging China's military hold on the disputed South China Sea, its constant threats to Taiwan and branding coronavirus as "China virus" after it emerged from Wuhan in December last year.
Chinese strategic experts said Biden entering the White House is expected to provide an opportunity for breakthroughs in resuming high-level communication and rebuilding mutual strategic trust between the two major countries.
"The Biden tenure could usher in a buffering period for already-tense China-US relations and offer an opportunity for breakthroughs in resuming high-level communication and rebuilding mutual strategic trust between the two countries," state-run Global Times quoted Chinese experts as saying on Monday.
Jin Canrong, Associate Dean of the School of International Studies at the Renmin University of China in Beijing, said that Biden will usher in a "buffer period" for China-US relations - relations may still worsen, but not as quickly.
"Biden will be more moderate and mature in handling foreign affairs," Jin said.
Biden is expected to appoint more professional officials to his diplomatic team and so it will be possible for US-China tensions to take a brief timeout, he said.
The vicious circle has led to damaged strategic mutual trust, a suspension of high-level communication and little concrete cooperation, Xin Qiang, deputy director of the Centre for US Studies at Fudan University, told the daily.
It might now be expected that some liaison mechanisms and stalled dialogues can be resumed, "but it will take time to rebuild mutual strategic trust," he said.
However, the pending change in US leadership will not change the overall direction of Washington's China policy, observers said.
Regardless of who resides in the White House, the US will to some extent maintain its current approach toward China, the experts said.
(With PTI inputs)