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China has overtaken the US to have the world’s largest diplomatic network, think tank says

China has overtaken the U.S. to become the world’s largest diplomatic network, according to the latest annual report from a Sydney-based think tank.

The Lowy Institute’s 2019 Global Diplomacy Index, published Wednesday, showed China had climbed to the top spot for the first time, underlining Beijing’s growing international ambitions.

The index is an analysis of the number of embassies and consulates maintained by countries around the world.

The Australian think tank reported China had 276 diplomatic posts worldwide, narrowly ahead of the U.S., which was found to have 273. The two countries were found to have an equal number of embassies, but Beijing has more consulates around the world than Washington.

“It’s ascent to the top spot has been rapid,” Bonnie Bley, lead researcher from the Lowy Institute, said in the report published Wednesday.

‘US diplomacy has entered a period of limbo’

In two years, China was found to have grown its international network by five diplomatic posts, following the opening of seven new missions and the closure of two others.

In 2016, China was in third place worldwide, behind the U.S. and France — but by 2017, the Asian economic powerhouse had moved up to second place, ahead of France.

Over the same time period, the U.S. has increased its missions but only to 273, up from 271.

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