TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — China is downsizing its diplomatic spending, even as it talks about the country’s expanding ambitions on the world stage.
The budgetary trend coincides with increased spending by the U.S., its major rival, according to the South China Morning Post. Statistics show China's spending on diplomacy last year dropped by 16.47% to US$8.07 billion (NT$223.54 billion).
In the two years leading up to 2020, Beijing boosted spending by 12.26% in 2018 and then a further 5.49% in 2019. In contrast, the U.S. Congress has passed Biden’s proposed increase for the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) budgets by 10%, bringing the total to US$58.5 billion.
Funding of China’s flagship globalization project, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), is also drying up. Investment in the project in 2020 was at its lowest point ever, according to think tank data cited by SCMP, with canceled deals, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Chinese state’s shrinking appetite for risky projects all contributing to the fall.
The intake of Chinese diplomats is also decreasing, with just 142 graduates recruited to the foreign ministry this year. Not since 2012 has the pool of newcomers been so low.
The data points reveal the limits of the Chinese leadership’s push to increase their country’s global clout. The rhetoric of Chinese diplomats has been hardening in recent times amid a deteriorating geopolitical environment.
"We have to form an iron army of diplomats... who have the invincible political will... unwavering determination, high ability, and tough spirit to turn new pages for diplomacy with Chinese characteristics in the new era," said Foreign Minister Wang Yi (王毅) in July.