The New Geography of Global Diplomacy

China Advances as the United States Retreats

Jason Lee / Reuters

As China’s rise has become a central force in global politics, analysts and policymakers have tracked its path to potential preeminence on a number of fronts: the size of its economy, the scale and reach of its investment and commercial relationships, the budget and capabilities of its military forces. But as of 2019, China has surpassed the United States in an underappreciated but crucial measure of global influence: the size of its diplomatic network. For decades, Washington had the largest diplomatic network in the world. Now China does, boasting 276 diplomatic posts—including embassies, consulates, and permanent missions to international organizations. The …