China has the most diplomatic missions in the world, beating the US with three posts.
The 2019 Lowy Institute Global Diplomacy Index shows China has overtaken the US as the country with the most diplomatic missions, a clear indication of Beijing’s growing international presence and influence.
The report by the Sydney-based think tank reports that China now has 276 diplomatic posts globally, while the US has 273. China has 169 embassies/ high commissions while the US has one less. Beijing also has 96 consulates, while Washington has 88.
The US has one more permanent mission than Beijing.
In the index, France is third with 277 missions, while Japan is fourth with 247 posts.
Russia is fifth with 242, Turkey sixth with 234, Germany seventh with 224 and Brazil eight with 222 foreign missions.
“Broadly speaking, consulates facilitate economic cooperation between countries, whereas embassies nurture political relationships,” lead researcher Bonnie Bley from the Lowy Institute told CNN.
The distribution of missions across the world
“(The results) suggest that, on a practical level, China’s network of overseas consulates can support the rollout of Beijing’s economic ambitions.”
China has intensified its diplomatic presence globally as well as in Africa. As of October this year, there were 47 Chinese diplomatic missions in Africa.
Unlike other missions that have multilateral accreditation across the EAC region, China has missions in each of the member states — Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi.
In the Horn of Africa, China has posts in Djibouti, Ethiopia and Eritrea as well.
In all, the Index identifies almost 6,000 diplomatic posts in around 660 cities.
Posts are classified by type: embassy or high commission, consulate-general, consulate, permanent mission or delegation to multilateral organisations, or other representation type, including delegations to countries where there is no formal diplomatic relationship.
The 2019 Lowy Institute Global Diplomacy Index visualises the diplomatic networks of 61 G20, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and Asian countries and territories, allowing users to compare the significant diplomatic networks in the world.
Diplomatic posts ranking
The 2019 edition makes data available across three years – 2016, 2017 and 2019 – and sees the addition of one new country, Lithuania, which joined the OECD in July last year.
The report recommends that for ministries of Foreign Affairs to save spending in diplomatic missions, they should reduce the number of their home-based staff posted abroad.
“These postings are costly in comparison with basing staff at ministry headquarters in the capital,” the report says.
It also recommends states to increase the use of staff engaged locally (LES) in the host country, replacing the more expensive home-based staff positions.
The other option they pointed out is cost-sharing.
For instance, countries such as Australia, Canada, the UK, Switzerland and the Netherlands are adapting to budget constraints by resource sharing at certain posts.
“For example, Switzerland shares premises and costs with the Netherlands in Oman, with Austria in Los Angeles, and similar plans are underway for Nigeria and Angola. Canada and the UK announced plans in 2012 for a number of resource-sharing arrangements, and Canada and Australia already have a reciprocal arrangement for representing each others’ interests in Asia and the Americas,” the report says.