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China's foreign exchange reserves, 1977-2011
Foreign reserves minus gold

(US$ billion,
end-month)

1977

2.3

1978

1.6

1979

2.2

1980

2.5

1981

5.1

1982

11.3

1983

15.0

1984

17.4

1985

12.7

1986

11.5

1987

16.3

1988

18.5

1989

18.0

1990

29.6

1991

43.7

1992

*20.6

1993

22.4

1994

52.9

1995

75.4

1996

107.0

1997

142.8

1998

149.2

1999

146.2

2000

165.6

2001

212.2

2002

286.4

2003

403.3

Jan 2004

415.7

Feb 2004

426.6

Mar 2004

439.8

Apr 2004

449.0

May 2004

458.6

Jun 2004

470.6

Jul 2004

483.0

Aug 2004

496.2

Sep 2004

514.5

Oct 2004

542.4

Nov 2004

573.9

Dec 2004

609.9

Jan 2005

623.6

Feb 2005

642.6

Mar 2005

659.1

Apr 2005

670.8

May 2005

691.0

Jun 2005

711.0

Sep 2005

769.0

Dec 2005

818.9

Jan 2006

845.2

Feb 2006

853.7

Mar 2006

875.1

Apr 2006

895.0

May 2006

925.0

Jun 2006

941.1

Jul 2006

954.6

Aug 2006

972.0

Sep 2006

987.9

Oct 2006

1,009.6

Nov 2006

1,038.8

Dec 2006

1,066.3

Jan 2007

1,104.7

Feb 2007

1,157.4

Mar 2007

1,202.0

Apr 2007

1,246.6

May 2007

1,292.7

Jun 2007

1,332.6

Jul 2007

1,385.2

Aug 2007

1,408.6

Sep 2007

1,433.6

Oct 2007

1,454.9

Nov 2007

1,497.0

Dec 2007

1,528.2

Jan 2008

1,589.8

Feb 2008

1,647.1

Mar 2008

1,682.2

Apr 2008

1,756.7

May 2008

1,797.0

Jun 2008

1,808.8

Jul 2008

1,845.2

Aug 2008

1,884.2

Sep 2008

1,905.6

Oct 2008

1,879.7

Nov 2008

1,884.7

Dec 2008

1,946.0

Jan 2009

1,913.5

Feb 2009

1,912.1

Mar 2009

1,952.7

Apr 2009

2,008.9

May 2009

2,089.5

Jun 2009

2,131.6

Jul 2009

2,174.6

Aug 2009

2,210.8

Sep 2009

2,272.6

Oct 2009

2,328.3

Nov 2009

2,388.8

Dec 2009

2,399.2

Jan 2010

2,415.2

Feb 2010

2,424.6

Mar 2010

2,447.1

Apr 2010

2,490.5

May 2010

2,439.5

Jun 2010

2,454.3

Jul 2010

2,538.9

Aug 2010

2,547.8

Sep 2010

2,648.3

Oct 2010

2,760.9

Nov 2010

2,767.8

Dec 2010

2,847.3

Jan 2011

2,931.7

Feb 2011

2,991.4

Mar 2011

3,044.7

Jun 2011

3,197.5

Jul 2011

3,245.3

Aug 2011

3,262.5

Sep 2011

3,201.7

Oct 2011

3,273.8

Nov 2011

3,220.9

Dec 2011

3,181.1

Foreign-exchange reserves reached US$ 3.2 trillion in December 2011

At the start of the reform era at the end of 1978, China's foreign exchange reserves were minimal, but enough to cover the requirements of a country with a very small import bill.

In the early 1980s, export growth contributed to an initial rise in reserves to a peak of US$17.4bn by 1984. High trade deficits in 1985 and 1986 eroded the reserves in those years.

In 1987 the surplus on trade in services slightly exceeded the merchandise trade deficit, producing a small current-account surplus, and a comfortable net capital inflow helped push up reserves to US$16.3bn. The reserves were held above this level for another two years.



The economic slowdown of 1989-91 produced a sharp fall in imports in 1990, while exports continued to rise, producing a merchandise trade surplus for that year of US$9.2bn, which was gradually eroded in the next three years as imports rose faster than exports. By 1993 the trade and current accounts were in deficit, but the acceleration in inward FDI flows kept foreign exchange reserves rising for most of the rest of the decade.

Joining the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in 2001 contributed to rapid growth in imports, but exports also expanded at a fast pace, while FDI inflows exceeded US$60 billion a year by 2004-2006.

 In October 2006, China's foreign exchange reserves exceeded USD1 trillion for the first time. 

By the end of September 2008, the reserves topped USD 1.9 trillion, equal to nearly USD1,500 per head for the entire population of China. 

It remained around this level until the end of 2008 as trade growth slowed and foreign investment inflows declined. 

The onward march resumed in 2009 and by September 2011 foreign-exchange reserves had reached USD 3.2 trillion, where they remained for the rest of the year.

The 1992 figure is lower than the 1991 figure because reserves were redefined in 1992 to exclude foreign-exchange deposits of state-owned entities with the Bank of China.
Source: State Administration of Foreign Exchange, People's Republic of China and the People's Bank of China