Beijing: For the first time, China has the largest diplomatic network in the world, even bigger than that of the US, according to a study that said Beijing achieved a significant milestone in establishing linkages globally in its quest for global influence.
According to the Sydney-based Lowy Institute, China overtook the US in 2019 and currently has 276 diplomatic posts globally, three more than America.
China has 169 embassies, 96 consulates, eight permanent missions and three other missions.
For its part, the US has 168 embassies, 88 consulates, nine permanent and eight other missions.
In 2016, China was in third place behind the US and France and a year later it had climbed to second place. There was no report in 2018.
India is ranked 12 in the global ranking with 123 Embassies/High Commissions 54 consulates, five permanent missions and four other representations.
India however figured 3rd among Asian countries after China and Japan in global diplomatic network.
Japan, which is ranked fourth in the global rankings has 151 Embassies, 61 consulates, 10 permanent missions and 21 other representations.
With 85 embassies and High Commissions, 30 consulates and two permanent missions, Pakistan is ranked 28 globally and sixth in Asia.
The Lowy index maps the size and reach of 61 diplomatic networks around the world by embassies, consulates, permanent missions and other diplomatic posts.
"While Beijing and Washington are neck-and-neck in terms of the number of embassies they have, China is unmatched in its number of consulates, with 96 globally compared with the United States'' 88, suggesting its diplomatic expansion is closely linked to its economic interests," state-run China Daily here quoted the report as saying.
According to the index, the US is home to some 342 Embassies and consulates belonging to the 61 countries included in the index. China, with 256, comes in second.
Bonnie Bley, lead research fellow of the report, said while the US no longer has the world''s biggest diplomatic network, "diplomatic infrastructure is only a small part of diplomatic influence".
The fact that China now has the biggest diplomatic network in the world "tells us that Beijing has invested considerable resources into diplomacy, which can be a useful barometer of national ambitions and priorities," Bley has been quoted as saying by China Daily.
"As it stands, this development is of symbolic significance," she added.
Asked how much China’s multibillion Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) played in Beijing’s diplomatic expansion, Bley said, "while the US and China are effectively on par for their number of embassies, Beijing has a larger network of consulates.
"Unlike Embassies, which often have a political function, consulates primarily facilitate economic cooperation between countries. This may suggest that China''s diplomatic network－and its emphasis on consulates－is partly geared toward facilitating China''s BRI," she said.
While China has steadily invested in its diplomatic infrastructure, adding five posts since 2017, the US has seen its total diplomatic posts drop by one over the same period, following the closure of its diplomatic outpost in St. Petersburg, Russia.
This can partly be explained by a natural slowdown in diplomatic expansion once countries have established networks, Bley said.
"The US already had a large network so it would be difficult to add many more posts," she said.