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Donald Trump’s Victory: How Global Leaders Reacted

Matthew MacLachlan

15 Nov 2016

The world is slowly coming to terms with the surprising result of the recent US Presidential elections. Donald Trump, an outsider and political novice at the start of the campaign, will soon become the 45th President of the USA. Donald Trump’s victory is certainly causing waves across the world and among world leaders. How each one has reacted says much about the culture and communication styles of their respective countries.

Donald Trump’s Victory

Ever since the result was announced, world leaders have been keen to send messages of congratulations and reinforce the close ties that bind their countries to the USA. How these messages were expressed provides real insight into the cultural communication style of each leader and, in many ways, their country’s culture.

donald trump's victory

Germany: A Not-so-subtle Warning

Angela Merkel, one of the most respected world leaders, was typically direct.  Most messages from other leaders repeated very diplomatic messages about warmth and future cooperation.  Merkel’s message stood out – while it contained the diplomatic message it also unusually had a very direct condition attached to it:

Germany and America are connected by values of democracy, freedom, and respect for the law and the dignity of man, independent of origin, skin colour, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or political views.  I offer the next President of the United States close cooperation on the basis of these values. (Angela Merkel)

Merkel’s message is that, yes, we want to work with you, but we have limits and there is a line which should not be crossed.

France: A More Diplomatic Approach

President Hollande’s congratulatory message while similar in sentiment was expressed in a very different way:

I listened to your first intervention with attention … after a sometimes brutal campaign.  The US is a priority partner for France. What is at stake is peace, the fight against terrorism, the Middle East situation, the economical relationships and the preservation of the planet.  I would like to discuss these topics soon with you, enlightened by the values and interests we share. The friendship between our two people and history will help us. (François Hollande, Communicaid translation)

Hollande, in much more eloquent language, focuses on shared values and the friendship between the two nations.  His note of caution is implied, rather than stated.  He almost positions himself as a more experienced man of wisdom, offering a word of advice to an ambitious emergent leader.

India and China: Adopt a Similar Approach

Germany and France’s responses are in stark contrast to cultures with a more relational attitude to communication.  Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India, gave an unconditional show of friendship and warmth, posted on Twitter:

We appreciate the friendship you have articulated towards India during your campaign (Narenda Modi)

Similarly, President Xi Jinping of China was very uncontroversial and warm, despite Trump’s stated desire to review China-US trade deals:

We look forward to working together with the new US administration to push forward consistent, healthy and stable China-US relations which could be beneficial to the people of the two countries and to the world. (President Xi Jinping)

Both China and India are cultures characterised by an indirect cultural approach to communication, where maintaining the harmony of a relationship is not only important, it is a matter of face.  Neither leader is prepared to make any disagreement public, and both will rely on more subtle ways of being cautious in the face of the unknown.

The Impact of Donald Trump’s Victory: Only Time Will Tell

Over the next four years, we will see how world leaders communicate in a wide range of styles with the soon to be President Trump. The style of the congratulatory messages sent following Donald Trump’s victory were not spontaneous: the advisers to each of the leader will have crafted each word carefully to convey a specific message.  Nevertheless, it is worthy of note that even a simple message of “congratulations” highlights how important the nuances of cultural differences are in communication.