Beijing—China declined Monday to congratulate Joe Biden as the winner of the US presidential election, saying the outcome of the vote was still to be determined.
While incumbent Donald Trump has yet to concede and has launched several legal challenges, many world leaders congratulated Biden and running mate Kamala Harris after the Democrats were declared winners at the weekend and spontaneous celebrations erupted across American cities.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is also waiting for official results from the US presidential election before congratulating a winner, the Kremlin said on Monday.
"We consider it correct to wait for the official results to be finalised. I want to remind you that President Putin repeatedly said he will respect the choice of the American people," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.
The leaders of Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and other European countries sent congratulations to Biden, along with Australia, Canada, India, Indonesia, Israel, Japan and South Korea.
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said he would wait until all legal challenges are resolved, while Trump ally President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil has yet to make any official comment.
Trump's four years in the White House have been marked by a costly trade war and increasingly icy relations with China, with the two powers sparring over areas from blame for the COVID-19 pandemic to Beijing's human rights record in Xinjiang and Hong Kong.
China—among a handful of major countries including Russia and Mexico that has not congratulated the President-Elect — said Monday it had "noticed that Mr. Biden declared he is the winner of the election."
"Our understanding is that the outcome of the election will be determined in accordance with US laws and procedures," foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told press at a regular briefing.
After declining to acknowledge Biden's victory despite repeated questions from reporters, Wang said: "We hope the new US government can meet China halfway."
Trump has refused to concede defeat, complaining in a tweet on Sunday, "Since when does the Lamestream Media call who our next president will be?"
Many world leaders congratulated President-elect Biden after he took an insurmountable lead over Donald Trump in the vote count.
When Trump won the 2016 presidential election over Hillary Clinton, Putin congratulated him within roughly an hour.
Peskov said that this election was different because of the legal challenges that Trump, who has refused to concede defeat, is planning to mount over the vote.
"The difference is quite obvious… then there were no announcements of legal challenges," Peskov said.
He added that Moscow was ready to work with whoever is declared the winner of the US vote.
"We hope that with the next president of the United States it will be possible to re-establish a dialogue and together agree on ways to normalise our bilateral relations," he said.
Russia was accused of interfering in the 2016 election to help get Trump elected, in the hope he would take a softer line with Moscow.
Biden is expected to take a tougher stand and during the campaign slammed Trump for having "embraced so many autocrats around the world, starting with Vladimir Putin".
On Sunday, Biden took the first steps towards moving into the White House in 73 days, as Trump again refused to admit defeat and tried to sow doubt about the election results.
With congratulations pouring in from world leaders and supporters nursing hangovers after a night of celebrations, Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris announced they would receive a joint briefing Monday in Wilmington, Delaware from their transition Covid-19 advisory team.
Biden would then deliver remarks on coronavirus and economic recovery.
They also launched a transition website, BuildBackBetter.com, and a Twitter feed, @Transition46.
Meanwhile, Trump played golf at his course near Washington, the same place where he was Saturday when news broke that Biden had secured enough Electoral College votes for victory.
Trump, who has no public events scheduled for Monday, plans to file a string of lawsuits in the coming week, according to his lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who said he had "a lot of evidence" of fraud.
But former president George W. Bush said the "outcome is clear" and added that he had called "President-elect" Biden and Harris to extend his congratulations.
Bush said in a statement that "the American people can have confidence that this election was fundamentally fair… We must come together for the sake of our families and neighbors, and for our nation and its future."
Biden's transition website lists four priorities: Covid-19, economic recovery, racial equity and climate change.
"The team being assembled will meet these challenges on Day One," it said in a reference to January 20, 2021, when Biden will be sworn in as the 46th president of the United States.
Biden, who turns 78 on November 20, is the oldest person ever elected to the White House. Harris, 56, a senator from California, is the first woman, first Black person and first South Asian person to be elected vice president.
Biden plans to name a task force on Monday to tackle the coronavirus pandemic, which has left more than 237,000 people dead in the United States and is surging across the country.
He has also announced plans to rejoin the Paris climate accord and will reportedly issue an executive order on his first day in office reversing Trump's travel ban on mostly Muslim countries.
Biden has vowed to name a cabinet that reflects the diversity of the country, although he may have trouble gaining approval for more progressive appointees if Republicans retain control of the Senate — an outcome that will depend on two runoff races in Georgia in January.
'Accept the inevitable'
Biden, who after John F. Kennedy is just the second Catholic to be elected US president, attended church Sunday morning in his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware.
He also visited the graves of his son, Beau Biden, who died of brain cancer in 2015, and his first wife and daughter, who died in a 1972 car accident.
The Trump campaign has mounted legal challenges to the results in several states, but no evidence has emerged of any widespread irregularities that would affect the results.
Giuliani told the Fox News show "Sunday Morning Futures" that Trump's team would file a lawsuit in Pennsylvania on Monday against officials "for violating civil rights, for conducting an unfair election (and) for violating the law of the state."
"The first lawsuit will be Pennsylvania. The second will either be Michigan or Georgia. And over the course of the week, we should get it all pulled together," Giuliani said.
First Lady Melania Trump also chipped in Sunday, tweeting: "The American people deserve fair elections. Every legal — not illegal — vote should be counted."
Speaking on CNN's "State of the Union" Sunday, senior Biden advisor Symone Sanders dismissed the court challenges as "baseless legal strategies."
Biden received nearly 74.6 million votes to Trump's 70.4 million nationwide and has a 279-214 lead in the Electoral College that determines the presidency.
Biden also leads in Arizona, which has 11 electoral votes, and Georgia, which has 16. If he wins both, he would finish with 306 electoral votes — the same total won by Trump in 2016 when he upset Hillary Clinton.
Only two Republican senators, Mitt Romney and Lisa Murkowski, have congratulated Biden.
Democratic Representative James Clyburn of South Carolina said the Republican Party has a "responsibility" to help convince Trump it is time to give up.
Romney, who voted to convict Trump at his impeachment trial, said the president will eventually "accept the inevitable."
The Utah senator added that he "would prefer to see the world watching a more graceful departure, but that's just not in the nature of the man."
'Do not concede, Mr. President'
Trump ally Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said the 74-year-old president should keep fighting.
"We will work with Biden if he wins, but Trump has not lost," Graham said on Fox News. "Do not concede, Mr. President. Fight hard."
In a victory speech on Saturday, Biden promised to unify the bitterly divided nation and reached out to Trump supporters, saying, "They're not our enemies, they're Americans."
"Let's give each other a chance," he said. "Let this grim era of demonization in America begin to end, here and now."
Financial markets welcomed Biden's victory, with shares up in Tokyo and Hong Kong, and US futures up on Wall Street on Sunday evening.