Diplomatic Briefing

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Newsline: China seen upping diplomatic offensive with increased budget

After three years of largely self-imposed isolation on the global stage, China is aiming to up its diplomatic offensive and win back lost ground – all while hardening its public stance toward its superpower rival, the United States. Qin Gang, Beijing’s new foreign minister, on Tuesday declared that “China’s diplomacy has pressed the ‘accelerator button,’” citing the country’s recovery from the pandemic and its resumption of international exchanges. That outreach will be boosted by a 12.2% increase in the Chinese government’s budget for diplomatic expenditure this year. It’s a drastic jump from the zero-Covid era that saw China’s borders mostly shut: In 2020, China slashed its diplomacy budget by 11.8%, before a mild 2.4% increase in 2022. This year’s budget, pegged at 54.84 billion yuan (about $8 billion), remains below the pre-pandemic peak, but experts say it marks a significant increase for China to resume and expand its diplomatic engagement with the world. (https://lite.cnn.com/2023/03/08/china/china-budget-diplomatic-expenditure-intl-hnk) In comparison, in the US, the requested 2023 budget for “international affairs” listed on the State Department’s website was $67 billion. And the money will be used not only to fund diplomatic trips. According to China’s Ministry of Finance, the umbrella term “diplomatic expenditure” covers a wide range of areas, from budgets for the Foreign Ministry, Chinese embassies and consulates, to China’s participation in international organizations, foreign aid and external propaganda.

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