LONDON -- From Beijing's streets to France's Elysee Palace, common citizens and leaders of the world greeted Barack Obama's election largely as a sign of hope that America would mend torn international relations and lead the way out of global economic turmoil.
"I am so happy Obama won," said Mao Xiaoqing, 21, an economics student in Beijing. "I think he will take some creative actions about the economic crisis. It's the main problem for America and the rest of the world."
French President Nicolas Sarkozy said Obama's election "has raised enormous hope in France, in Europe and beyond."
"France and Europe … will find a new energy to work with America to achieve peace and world prosperity," Sarkozy said.
Many people were pleased that Americans would elect a black man to the most powerful post in the world. They are aware of the USA's history of racial division, and many live in countries where minorities have a slim chance of gaining access to the top office.
Beijing taxi driver Tao Qingcai is one.
"I am happy to see a minority become president," he said. "It could reduce racial prejudice in the USA. But I cannot see a minority becoming leader of China. We don't have real democracy here."
"It shows that America truly is a diverse, multicultural society where the color of your skin really does not matter," said Jason Ge, an international relations student at Peking University in China.
Obama's popularity had reached rock star status across a globe long before Tuesday.
In Germany, where more than 200,000 people flocked to see Obama this summer as he burnished his foreign policy credentials during a trip to the Middle East and Europe, the election dominated television ticker crawls, newspaper headlines and websites.
Obama-mania was evident not only across Europe but also in much of the Islamic world, where Muslims expressed hope that the Democrat would seek compromise rather than confrontation.
Much of the world had grown weary of eight years of President Bush, U.S. unilateral military action symbolized by the war in Iraq that marked his first term. They also are fearful and drained by a growing economic crisis that began 15 months ago in the USA and swept across continents with a vengeance two months ago.
They saw the young, black American candidate as a distinct alternative to the unpopular incumbent.
Obama was the odds-on choice for Germans and citizens in Europe's five other biggest countries. In contrast, Republican John McCain was the choice of only 5% of Germans, 1% of the French and 8% of Spaniards, a France 24 TV, International Herald Tribune poll found going into the election.
On Election Day and into Wednesday's early hours, across continents watched to see whether American voters would agree with them.
Foreigners and American ex-pats stood shoulder to shoulder in front of television sets in places like the ballroom of Mexico City's expensive Camino Real hotel and the U.S. Embassy in London to watch what U.S. voters would do in an election that was more closely followed overseas than any in recent memory.
The reaction was immediate and enthusiastic in many Asian business offices and stock markets.
Tokyo's benchmark Nikkei 225 index rose 4.5%, Hong Kong's Hang Seng index 3.2% and Singapore's Straits Times index 2.4%.
"I have high expectations for Obama," said Yasuhiko Mizutani, a Japanese entrepreneur who owns a toy factory in southern China.
Mizutani said he hoped an Obama administration could salvage the sinking U.S. economy before it drags Asia into recession. "If something goes wrong with America, the Japanese economy will crash," he said.
Takanori Ohara, owner of a Japanese security alarm manufacturing firm, agreed. "America needs massive change, and Obama seems to be the one who can do it," he said.
Obama also was the subject of intense interest in Pakistan, an Islamic country where television shows explored his father's Muslim background.
College student Abid Ali, 21, hoped that Obama would show more sympathy toward Muslims and soften the Bush administration's hard-line approach to the global war on terror.
"Once again, Pakistani people have raised their hopes that a change in U.S. policy will bring some change to Pakistan," Ali said.
Nizar al-Kortas, a columnist for Kuwait's Al-Anbaa newspaper, saw an Obama victory as "a historic step to change the image of the arrogant American administration."
Some were wary of the new president-elect, however.
Pakistani advertising executive Sohal Rehman, 41, feared that Obama would tilt toward Pakistan's rival India and inflame tensions along Pakistan's border with Afghanistan by intensifying operations against Taliban militants hiding in the area.
If there was an area around the globe that was consistently wary of him, it was Israel and the roughly 40,000 Americans who live there. McCain was favored 3-1 over Obama by Americans there, a survey of 817 who live there and who voted absentee in the election found. It was taken by the nonpartisan group Vote from Israel a week ago.
Tzipi Livni, Israel's foreign minister, was diplomatic in her reaction to Tuesday's results.
"Israel expects the close strategic cooperation with the new administration, president and Congress will continue," she said.
Other world leaders were more effusive in their reaction and with their congratulations. Many found Obama's rise inspirational.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Obama had energized politics "with his progressive values and his vision for the future."
"I know Barack Obama," Brown said, "and we share many values. We both have determination to show that government can act to help people fairly through these difficult times facing the global economy."
Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said, "Senator Obama's message of hope is not just for America's future, it is also a message of hope for the world as well. A world which is now in many respects fearful for its future."
No place may have been happier with Tuesdays victory than Kenya, Obama's ancestral homeland.
Obamamania has been rampant in the east African country since the Illinois senator spoke at the Democratic National Convention four years ago. Babies have been named for him. Earlier this week, "Obama: The Musical" opened on stage in Kenya's capital of Nairobi.
"We the Kenyan people are immensely proud of your Kenyan roots," Kenyan president told Obama in a congratulatory message. "Your victory is not only an inspiration to millions of people all over the world, but it has special resonance with us here in Kenya."
Editor's Note: MacLeod reported from Beijing, Wiseman from Hong Kong and Stinson from London.