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External debt highest since 1985: SAFE report

External debt highest since 1985: SAFE report

Updated: 2012-03-22 21:41

By Wang Xiaotian (

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BEIJING - 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 had 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.

"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, other external debt indicators of China, 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.

(For full story, see March 23 China Daily, page 14.)

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