American presidential elections are domestic issues, but because of the nation’s extraordinary economic and political reach, the outcome affects the world. Donald Trump’s presidency and its disruptive impact on global trade agreements and alliances means that today’s vote will arguably be more keenly watched than any previously held. China, which has borne the brunt of his foreign policy, is eager to know whether four more years of uncertainty lie ahead, or if diplomacy and reasoned negotiations will return should his Democratic opponent, Joe Biden, be elected. There is much more at stake, though: the United States’ global credibility and standing, its ability to influence and lead, and the perception of its much-vaunted democracy. The crux of US democracy is a peaceful transition of power. Americans, proud of their constitution, surely want that, but Chinese, others in Asia and a world thrown into turmoil by Trump’s unpredictability and reckless adventurism, also seek it. A result that is contested as being unfair or cheated, perhaps to the point of being dragged through the courts for months or years, is in no one’s interest. With politics polarised, divisions in society deep and the risk of emotions spinning out of control, the winner has to be humble and the loser gracious in defeat. That the election is being held with the nation struggling to contain Covid-19 makes the need for the process to be trouble-free even more urgent. The disease has prompted a majority of electors to vote by post and more than two-thirds have already cast ballots. In itself, that is an indicator of what the election means for Americans; minds have been quickly made up. This is reason for free and fair polling and the outcome to be promptly accepted. There is no disputing the power and strength of the US, the world’s biggest economy. No nation rivals it for scientific, technological and military might and many of its companies are leaders in their field. Those are the reasons Trump’s administration has targeted China, perceived as being a threat to its dominance. Standard Chartered CEO: US election may redefine US-China relationship But the approach ignored the importance of cooperation and coordination, now plainly evident for Americans in broken supply chains and lost markets. Anti-Chinese sentiment in the US has risen dramatically under Trump. A Biden presidency offers no certainty that it can be tamped down or that lawmakers will seek cooperation rather than rivalry. But there can be no disputing that both nations would benefit economically from working together and that the world needs them to cooperate and coordinate to tackle global problems such as disease, climate change and nuclear proliferation, and ensure multilateral organisations function effectively. That cannot happen unless divisions in American politics and society are healed. A mammoth task awaits the winner.