China congratulates Biden; UN issues warning on Tigray; Ghana's Jerry Rawlings passes away

The World
A woman sells balloons near a giant TV screen broadcasting news of US President-elect Joe Biden delivering his speech, at a shopping mall in Beijing, Nov. 8, 2020.

A woman sells balloons near a giant TV screen broadcasting news of US President-elect Joe Biden delivering his speech, at a shopping mall in Beijing, Nov. 8, 2020.

Andy Wong/AP

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China has congratulated US President-elect Joe Biden, becoming one of the last major countries to do so. For a week, Russian President Vladimir Putin, China’s President Xi Jinping and other world leaders avoided joining most other nations in sending greetings to the victor of the Nov. 3 US presidential election — following widespread recognition last Saturday that the Democratic candidate clinched enough Electoral College votes to defeat incumbent Donald Trump.

“We congratulate Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris,” said Wang Wenbin, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman. “We respect the choice of the American people.” He added that “the result will be confirmed according to US laws and procedures.”

Biden’s security, technology and trade policies vis-a-vis China may not diverge that much from Trump’s, even if the tone of his engagement will be more diplomatic and multilateral. A tariff war erupted last year over Chinese tech ambitions amid US attempts to lessen its trade deficit with China. Washington also has profoundly criticized China’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, human rights abuses in Xinjiang, and heavy-handed control of Hong Kong.

On Thursday, Trump issued an executive order barring Americans from putting money in assets that are owned by the Chinese military, likely only the first such decree in a sequence of moves putting additional pressure on China before he leaves the Oval Office on Jan. 20. Biden is expected to take on a more predictable foreign policy stance while working with China on climate change and COVID-19, as well as in negotiations with US adversaries such as North Korea and Iran.

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The UN warned Friday that fighting between the Ethiopian government and rebel leaders in the northern province of Tigray could spiral out of control. The body’s human rights chief, Michelle Bachelet, cited an Amnesty International report about a massacre of civilians and said the incident could amount to war crimes. Ethiopia’s prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, has alleged that the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) — which effectively governs a region of over 5 million people — is guilty of terrorism and treason. For its part, the TPLF accuses Abiy’s government of persecuting ethnic Tigrayans.

Jerry John Rawlings, who ruled Ghana for 20 years after taking control in two coups, died Thursday at an Accra hospital. The 73-year-old former air force officer had embraced a mix of democratic reform with autocratic tendencies. Rawlings launched free-market reforms that created economic growth and was Ghana’s longest-serving leader. When he first entered politics, Rawlings hit his stride by chastising the country’s elite for corruption. But some critics said he abused power and misused government funds.

From The World

Italy's coronavirus response was a model for Europe. What went wrong?

A little over a month ago, Italy was held up as a role model for their coronavirus response in Europe. But this week, Italy surpassed 1 million confirmed coronavirus infections, becoming one of the top 10 worst-affected countries globally.

'Equity is very front and center' for Biden's new COVID-19 task force

President-elect Joe Biden named his COVID-19 task force this week, signaling that fighting the raging pandemic will be the immediate priority of his new administration. It's an abrupt shift from President Donald Trump's more unworried approach to the virus.

Dr. Céline Gounder, an HIV and infectious disease specialist, is among the experts named to Biden's key advisory panel. She told The World's Marco Werman one of her first priorities is obvious: encouraging mask wearing.

"How do we depoliticize the wearing of a mask? The way I think about it is sort of like toilet paper. You know, toilet paper is not a political symbol. It's a basic hygienic measure. And similarly, we should be thinking about masks as such," Dr. Gounder said.

Bright spot

A new statue honoring 18th-century feminist icon Mary Wollstonecraft drew sharp backlash after it was was unveiled in London this week. The issue? The figure depicted in the statue is totally nude. Critics argue that a nude statue honoring a feminist is sexist — and that important men in history are not typically depicted this way.

But Bee Rowlatt, a writer who led the campaign and wrote a book inspired by Wollstonecraft, says a lot of the criticism comes from a place of misunderstanding(Disclosure: Rowlatt is former producer for The World)

“That’s the mistake that pretty much everyone has made,” she said. “This is not a statue of Mary Wollstonecraft. It’s a sculpture of an idea.”

A protester covers with a T-shirt the Mary Wollstonecraft statue by artist Maggi Hambling, in Newington Green, London, Britain, Nov. 11, 2020.

A protester covers with a T-shirt the Mary Wollstonecraft statue by artist Maggi Hambling, in Newington Green, London, Britain, Nov. 11, 2020. 


Paul Childs/Reuters

In case you missed it

Listen: A global lens on America’s elections as Trump refuses to concede

Leaves lie on the ground in focus with the White House in the distance in soft focus.

Leaves lie on the ground outside the White House in Washington, DC, Nov. 12, 2020.


Andrew Harnik/AP

For many decades, the US has presented itself to the rest of the world as the gold standard when it comes to free and fair voting. So how does that square with President Donald Trump now refusing to concede after losing? And, China has four COVID-19 vaccines in phase 3 trials. But with so few coronavirus cases in the country, it’s forced to hold trials in the Middle East, Southeast Asia and Brazil. Also, “Transplant,” a new Canadian TV series, offers a fresh take on medical dramas. 

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