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Report: China now has more diplomatic posts than US, leads in global presence

China's President Xi Jinping, shakes hands with Russia's President Vladimir Putin. (Mikhail Metzel/Tass/Abaca Press/TNS)
November 27, 2019

China has surpassed the United States’ diplomatic presence around the world, laying down more embassies and consulates throughout the world than any other country, according to a new report.

As of 2019, China has 276 diplomatic posts throughout the world, as opposed to the 273 current posts of the U.S., Australian think tank, the Lowy Institute, concluded in its most recent report, which was first reported by Business Insider.

The Lowy Institute measures the diplomatic reach of 61 countries throughout the world and now ranks China as the country with the largest diplomatic presence. The U.S. ranks in a close second to China while France has a not-too-distant third-place rank with 267 diplomatic posts throughout the world.

Japan and Russia round out the top five leaders in world diplomatic presence with 247 and 242 embassies each, respectively. Those 61 countries are ranked in terms of their measure among G20 members, members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and presence in Asia. The Lowy Institute also measures the strengths and weaknesses of various a country’s geographic and geopolitical coverage.

China’s global presence has grown rapidly over the past decade, and in 2017, it had just three fewer diplomatic posts than the U.S.

The U.S. has also removed one diplomatic post since 2017, bringing their count from 274 to the current 273 posts. President Donald Trump’s administration has reportedly struggled to fill diplomatic key roles, contributing to the diminished U.S. foreign-policy influence around the world.

China’s diplomatic expansion also appears to mirror its reportedly rapid and secretive military growth in recent years. Former Navy Adm. William McRaven described the Chinese military build-up as a “holy shit” moment for the U.S.

China showcased some of its expanding military prowess during its Oct. 1 National Day parade. Among its military arsenal, China showcased its latest nuclear missile, the DF-41. The weapon is capable of traveling many times the speed of sound and deploying up to 10 separate warheads per missile.

The newly ranked diplomatic power has also expanded its economic presence throughout the globe. China hoped to attract international investors throughout Asia, Africa and Europe with its Belt and Road Initiative. Some critics have warned the Belt and Road deal is giving way to increased Chinese influence without adequate economic return for the partnering countries.

Despite those criticisms, China’s economy is expanding. A separate Business Insider report suggests China may actually overtake the U.S. as the world’s leading economy by some point in 2020.

China reportedly already leads in the economic measure of purchasing-power parity, but the U.S. still leads through the measure of nominal gross domestic product.