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People's Daily Online>>China Business

Foreign debt reaches $695b

By Wang Xiaotian (China Daily)

08:46, March 23, 2012

Experts say regulators must watch fast-growing short-term liabilities.

China's outstanding external debt in 2011 totaled nearly $695 billion, the highest since 1985, according to data released by the State Administration of Foreign Exchange on Thursday.

Debt rose by $146 billion, or nearly 27 percent from 2010, adding to concerns over whether rising external debt might undermine China's fiscal position and cause economic damage.

The proportion of short-term external debt to the total also climbed to a record high of 72 percent as of Dec 31, in contrast to 68 percent in 2010 and 60 percent in 2009.

But the year-on-year increase in short-term debt moderated. As of the end of 2011, outstanding short-term debt stood at $500.9 billion, up 33 percent. The growth rate was nearly 12 percentage points lower than in 2010.

"The ratio of short-term debt to foreign exchange reserves stood at 15.75 percent, far below the globally recognized warning line of 100 percent," said SAFE in a statement on its official website.

"Among the short-term debt, trade credit between enterprises and trade finance from banks together accounted for 74 percent, indicating that the surge in short-term debt is closely related to the rapid development of China's foreign trade in recent years."

SAFE said that as of 2011, China's other external debt indicators, such as the 9.52 percent liability ratio, the 33.31 percent foreign debt ratio and 1.72 percent debt-service ratio, all fell into the "safety" range, according to international standards.

Regulators should be alert to China's rapidly rising short-term external debt, as the proportion of 72 percent is well above the international alert level of 25 percent, said Li Chao, deputy head of the SAFE, in December.

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