China now has more diplomatic posts than any other country

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image captionChina's diplomatic reach - at least in numbers - is unparalleled

For the first time, China now has more diplomatic posts around the world than any other country, an Australian think tank says.

According to the Lowy Institute, China overtook the US in 2019, with 276 embassies and other representative offices globally.

That's three more posts than the US - France, Japan and Russia are in the next spots.

The UK comes in at number 11, down two ranks from 2016.

The report does not count only embassies but also consulates, and its authors say the figures indicate "strengths and weaknesses" in "geopolitical reach".

Diplomatic missions worldwide. .  .

China's diplomatic rise has been rapid in recent years. In 2016, it was still third behind the US and France with only 267 diplomatic missions. In 2017 it had moved to second spot.

Beijing's new missions have been popping up especially in countries that it wooed away from ties with Taiwan: Burkina Faso, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, the Gambia, and Sao Tome and Principe.

Taiwan is ranked 32nd with 107 posts, only 15 of which are embassies though.

Both China and Taiwan have a policy that they only have full diplomatic ties with a country if said country does not have ties with their rival.

The US has also increased its missions since 2016, but only from 271 to 273.

However the United Kingdom's diplomatic network shrank over those years, from 216 three years ago to only 205 in 2019.

Dropping to 11th in the rankings means the UK has fallen behind Italy, Spain and Brazil.

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