China now has most diplomatic posts in the world, India ranked 12th
China now has more diplomatic posts across the world than the US, a marker of its growing international clout and ambition, an Australian think tank said Wednesday.
China’s expansion in worldwide diplomatic presence has come partly at the expense of Taiwan, a self-governing democracy, which Beijing says is a breakaway province.
The 2019 Global Diplomacy Index released on Wednesday by the Sydney-based Lowy Institute gives the latest statistics, marking how the world’s diplomatic networks are expanding and, in certain cases, shrinking.
China overtook the US in 2019 with 276 embassies and consulates worldwide, which is three more than the US.
The study said both countries have an equal number of embassies but Beijing has three more consulates.
The next three spots are occupied by France, Japan, and Russia.
India is 12th among the 61 countries ranked by the Lowy Institute.
As of 2019, New Delhi has 123 embassies and high commissions and 54 consulates globally.
India too has expanded its diplomatic footprint: In 2017, it has 120 embassies and 52 consulates.
“But the US remains – by a wide margin – the most popular place for countries to maintain embassies and consulates. The US is home to some 342 posts belonging to the 61 countries included in the Index. China, with 256, is a distant second,” Bonnie Bley, the Lowy Institute research fellow who compiled the list, wrote.
China’s expansion, however, has been rapid.
“In two years, Beijing has grown its network by five diplomatic posts, following the opening of seven new missions and the shutdown of two. It’s ascent to the top spot has been rapid. In 2016, China was in third place behind the US and France, and by 2017 it had moved to second place ahead of France,” Bley wrote in her analysis.
China’s gain has mostly been a direct result of Taiwan’s shrinking diplomatic presence as Beijing intensifies its “one China” campaign.
Taiwan saw the biggest drop in diplomatic posts, down from 22 embassies in 2016 to 15 this year.
“Beijing opened new embassies in Burkina Faso, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, The Gambia, and São Tomé and Príncipe – all former diplomatic friends of Taipei,” Bley wrote.
Beijing’s diplomatic push has been aided by its economic heft as under President Xi Jinping, it pumps in billions of dollars into the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the intercontinental connectivity project aimed primarily at building trading corridors connecting China.
“Establishing a robust diplomatic infrastructure is the first practical step to bolstering a country’s diplomatic influence. In China’s case, we can say with certainty that it has invested in its diplomatic infrastructure, which serves as a telling metric of its international ambitions,” Bley told CNN.