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IR professors examine international impact of 2020 US presidential election

The 2020 presidential election has fed much of American news coverage over the past year, and continues to do so weeks after Election Day, but the race has also garnered attention far beyond U.S. borders.

Boston University’s Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies hosted a virtual panel Friday in which professors discussed the impact of the U.S. presidential election on other countries. LAURYN ALLEN/ DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

Boston University professors discussed the international impacts of this year’s election in a panel entitled “Beyond the Headlines: How the World Looks at the American Election,” hosted Friday by the Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies.

Erik Goldstein, an international relations and history professor, said global interest in the election decreased during the prolonged ballot-counting, but concern surrounding the outcome rose as election week came to an end.

He said when the British slowly turned their attention to the election results, a primary consideration was how a new American president would influence British politics and rising partisan issues in the country concerning Brexit.

“The papers in Britain were also divided,” Goldstein said at the event. “There was a strong group within the conservative end, the Brexiteer end, that was looking for a [Donald] Trump victory, hoping that a Trump victory would solve some of the political problems confronting Britain today.”

Trump had supported Brexit, but the British government is now adjusting to a Biden administration whose actions Goldstein said will impact future relationships with the rest of Europe and NATO.

Because the outcome of American election will affect British politics, Goldstein said there have been continuous discussions and vocal arguments between Britons about the election.

Countries outside of Europe have seen less political division, according to Manjari Chatterjee Miller, an associate professor of international relations. The Chinese government issued a congratulatory message to Biden, she said, and Chinese newspapers like the Global Times openly criticized the Trump administration.

“For the Chinese government, a Biden administration would certainly prove more stable, and they believe that it’s a more predictable administration that they can deal with,” Miller said during the panel. “They would conform to existing norms, including treading carefully around Taiwan and stay away from bombastic statements.”

However, Miller said there are some “Chinese elites” who side with the Trump administration, because they feel Trump is aiding in American decline more than any previous administration.

Though this year’s election stands out in the lengthiness of its post-election ballot-counting process, Miller said elections in India typically take more than a month because of its much-larger population.

“Almost 900 million Indians turn out to vote, so voter participation is extremely high in India. It hovers around between 67 to 70 percent,” Miller said. “Those are numbers that, in the U.S., are considered astonishing.”

In the 2016 presidential election, around 60 percent of Americans cast votes, but this year, nearly 65 percent did — the country’s highest turnout since 1908.

Senior lecturer Zoliswa Mali, director of BU’s African Language Program, said she believes it’s important to keep tabs on what’s happening in America regardless of one’s country of origin.

In an interview, she said the impact of the U.S. on the world is inevitably strong because of its military power, trade relations and overall dominance on the world stage.

“There is a footprint of America almost everywhere in the world,” Mali said in an interview. “We are connected that way, and everybody everywhere tries, wishes to come and get the taste of the dream.”

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