Like the rest of us, America’s foreign foes watched the 2020 U.S. presidential election closely. They know that many foreign policy issues hang in the balance. Some of the noisy reactions have been entirely predictable. Others have chosen silence while waiting patiently for events to play out.
Let’s begin with the heavy hitters: China and Russia.
Earlier this year, U.S. intelligence officials warned that both countries, as well as Iran, were seeking to interfere in the election process. William Evanina, the head of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center (NCSC), explained that all three actors could “use covert and overt influence measures in their attempts to sway U.S. voters’ preferences and perspectives” and to sow discord. “They may also seek to compromise our election infrastructure for a range of possible purposes, such as interfering with the voting process, stealing sensitive data, or calling into question the validity of the election results,” Evanina wrote. That assessment became the subject of some political controversy inside the U.S., because the Chinese and Iranians allegedly preferred a Biden victory (or at least to denigrate Trump), while the Kremlin purportedly wanted to undermine Biden. Fortunately, it doesn’t appear that any of the worst-case scenarios came to pass. Why that is the case will require additional analysis. American politics remains bitterly divided, even without any foreign interference.
Post-election, Chinese and Russian officials have mostly stayed quiet. Thus far, neither government has recognized Biden as the victor or otherwise commented on the election in a formal capacity. The press has given the Chinese foreign ministry multiple opportunities to weigh in, but the Chinese Communist Party’s CCP “wolf warriors” have declined to offer any opinions.