Japan Surpasses China as Top Foreign Holder of US Debt

April 16, 2015 Updated: October 8, 2018

Japan has reclaimed its status as the largest foreign holder of U.S. Treasury bonds, surpassing China as the top holder of U.S. debt for the first time since the 2008 financial crisis, according to the latest Treasury Department data released on Wednesday.

For the month of February, Japan owned $1.2244 trillion in U.S. government securities, while China owned $1.2237 trillion. In January, Japan held $1.2386 trillion, compared to China’s $1.2391 trillion.

China’s holdings have been steadily decreasing since August 2014, when they owned $1.2697 trillion. Japan’s numbers have fluctuated from month to month in the past year.

In terms of total annual holdings, Japan prevailed as the top holder of U.S. debt for much of the 2000s, until the 2008 financial crisis propelled China to that spot from 2009 to 2011. In 2012 and 2013, Japan and China switched places to become the first and second top foreign U.S. creditors.

Given Japan’s position as a strong U.S. ally, Americans may look positively on this latest news. With its much more ambivalent relationship to the United States, China’s reputation as the major holder of U.S. debt has been met with worry and unease in the past.

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