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Plone3000's avatar

About how much money Does the U.S. owe China?

Asked by Plone3000 (668points) October 17th, 2012

I have heard a lot of debate over this. It you could give me A legitimate source I would really like that as well.

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12 Answers

wonderingwhy's avatar

Looks like $1.15T or about 10% of our total public debt, give or take. Which also equates to a $28.5B interest payment estimated in 2012. However China hasn’t been increasing it’s holdings to maintain pace and therefore has a lesser total percentage than it did at it’s peak in 2010 with ~12%

Just for a quick comparison from the same article Japan holds around $1.12T, and total foreign held debt was at $5.43T in August.

Washington Post 1
Washington Post 2
Washington Post 3

BhacSsylan's avatar

Here’s another source, using the same data, for a nice pie chart

KNOWITALL's avatar

1. China, Mainland, $1149.6 billion dollars

Plone3000's avatar

Why thank you all very much. I don’t want this to become too political but doesn’t it seem a bit odd that some people say that “China has unfair trading polices”. If the U.S. owes them that much then we shouldn’t complain, right?

KNOWITALL's avatar

I don’t have a lot of time to explain but perhaps this article will help.

Coloma's avatar

That’s a lot of won tons. :-/

LuckyGuy's avatar

@Plone3000 Every time we buy something made in China we are effectively sending dollars to China. Our trade imbalance is roughly $400B per year. That comes to ~$1300 per person per year for every American. Think about what you spend a WallyWorld and where the good were made. That flat TV, that phone, your monitor, your computer, the batteries…
Try selling something in China. Depending upon what it is, you will be permitted to do it for one year while the volumes are low – after you supply a “localization plan”. That means actually building it in China. And that is the end of your profit stream.
They know it is not healthy to ship their wealth out of the country.

Nullo's avatar

@Coloma As it happens, it’s the Koreas that use the won. :P

dabbler's avatar

“China has unfair trading policies” is a distraction from the basic problem that the trade agreements we do have are flawed. They were probably advantageous to the US at first when we sold the Chinese manufacturing equipment and other big-ticket infrastructure items.

It’s also a distraction from the fact that all the rest of that debt is in the hands of someone else. Plenty of it is in the hands of funds (like pension funds or mutual funds) who are looking for a risk-free place to park billions. Some is in the hands of high-net-worth persons who enjoy the tax-free status of US government securities for fed/state/local taxes.

The neo-cons don’t mind the huge U.S. debt, they embrace it for its tax-free/risk-free contribution to the bottom line and for the hobbling effect it has on the federal government. Both give them more power.

Plone3000's avatar

But the U.S. exports subsidized goods to countries that can not afford subsidized goods all the time, corn being the biggest one.

victornewman's avatar

Way too much. Enough for them to own us. And it’s only gonna get worst under the new re-election of obama=(

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

One reason China’s recent aggression won’t result in war is that we are China’s largest debtor at about $1.241 trillion, as of June 2016. It’s not exactly an enviable position for us, but it works for us in respect that payments on this debt and the credit markers on it (which they can trade on the open market) are significant to the PRC economy. If anything happens to our economy that coulld divert these payments—such as war—the PRC economy would be severely affected. In our case, one could employ the old J. Paul Getty quote:

“If I owe the bank one million dollars, that’s my problem. If I owe the bank 100 million dollars, that’s the bank’s problem.”

We are a significant income stream and trading partner to the PRC. They are reluctant to handicap us, or we could miss the vig. That is why they slap North Korea’s hand when the PRK gets too far out of hand with their missiles into the Sea of Japan—too close to the PRK’s old enemy and our close ally, Japan.

But the most significant reason the PRC doesn’t want to confront us head-to-head militarily is that, although they have formidable armed forces well equipped with modern armament, they would not be able to bring us to capitulation because they have no way to get enough ground forces into North America quick enough to do so—and they know a nuclear exchange could ensue at that point which would result in mutual suicide. They can hurt us, and we can hurt them, but there is no way either one of us can win that war—at the moment. In the meantime, we do business.

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