China boosted its number of diplomatic allies to 180 as of September, with the Republic of Kiribati the latest to establish ties with the Communist republic that month, following the tiny Pacific nation’s decision to switch its allegiance from Taipei to Beijing.
Beijing also added five additional embassies and consulates to its long list of overseas missions since 2017, and has added new allies in recent years, mostly by poaching them from Taiwan. The self-ruled island lost six since 2016, when its pro-independence president took office.
A recent report studying the international presence of major powers says Beijing has the world’s largest diplomatic network, while Washington still has a number of “blank spots” in Asia, the Middle East and the Caribbean – for instance, North Korea, Iran, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica etc – where Beijing runs embassies and consulates.
Washington also shut its St Petersburg consulate after its fallout with Russia, and the Trump administration has not announced any new posts so far.
The Chinese foreign ministry now has more embassies and consulates around the planet than Washington’s State Department, which is still scrambling to fill a number of key positions, including its ambassadors to key allies like Canada, and for two years Washington did not appoint a top envoy to Australia.
The 2019 Lowy global diplomatic index published by the Sydney-based Lowy Institute measures the reach of diplomatic infrastructure and presence of G20 and OECD countries as well as that of most Asian nations, by the number of embassies, consulates and other diplomatic posts overseas.
Beijing has 276 in total in places from Copenhagen to the Cook Islands, three more than the US, and 96 consulates to Washington’s 88.
Beijing has also doubled down on expanding its networks in key countries, and especially its potential rivals, by opening more consulates.
In the US, other than its sprawling embassy compound in Washington, one of the largest of its kind in the American capital, Beijing runs consulates-general in New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Houston and is reportedly considering opening a new consulate in Seattle.
In the United Kingdom, other than London, Chinese diplomats are also stationed in Manchester, Edinburgh and Belfast. Beijing has six consulates in Japanese cities other than Tokyo and five consulates in Australia other than its embassy in Canberra.
Beijing also maintains sizable missions to the United Nations at its offices in New York, Geneva, Vienna, Bangkok and Nairobi as well as to other international and regional bodies including the European Union, Association of Southeast Asian Nations, African Union, etc.
The Chinese foreign ministry also has commissioner’s offices in the two former European colonies of Hong Kong and Macau even after their respective handover back to Chinese sovereignty.