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China’s diplomatic reach dominated global index

China has the world’s farthest-reaching diplomatic network, according to a new study, closely followed by the United States.

It has a bigger diplomatic footprint than its larger economic rival in Africa, East Asia and the Pacific islands, according to the Lowy Institute’s 2024 Global Diplomacy Index released Sunday. It also has a bigger presence in East Asia, following the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Washington’s reach is more extensive in Europe, North and Central America and South Asia, with the same number of diplomatic posts as Beijing in the Middle East and South America, the survey found.

China’s expansion has come at the expense of Taiwan, as China courts lower income nations with offers of infrastructure, economic and administrative assistance. 

In January, Nauru switched diplomatic allegiance from Taipei to Beijing. The move by the tiny Pacific country reduced Taiwan’s diplomatic allies to 12 nations, including the Vatican, Paraguay and Eswatini.

The index showed a rapid growth in diplomatic missions in the Pacific islands, seen as key geopolitical allies by the world’s two leading superpowers.

“The Global Diplomacy Index shows that governments continue to invest in diplomacy to project power and achieve their interests,” said Ryan Neelam, the director of the Public Opinion and Foreign Policy Program at the Lowy Institute.

“The ongoing rivalry between the United States and China is reflected in the superpowers’ dominance in the 2024 rankings, while geopolitical competition has propelled Asia and the Pacific into focus.”

The index was launched in 2016. This year, it covers the diplomatic networks of 66 countries and territories in Asia, the Group of 20 nations and members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Data was collected between July and November last year.

Edited by Taejun Kang.