Who owns America? Hint: It's not China
(Getty Images)
July 21st, 2011
04:30 PM ET

Who owns America? Hint: It's not China

Editor's Note: The following piece comes from Global Post, which provides excellent coverage of world news – importantmoving and odd.

By Tom Mucha, Global Post

Truth is elusive.  But it's a good thing we have math.

Our friends at Business Insider know this, and put those two principles to work today in this excellent and highly informative little slideshow, made even more timely by the ongoing talks in Washington, D.C. aimed at staving off a U.S. debt default.

Here's the big idea:

Many people — politicians and pundits alike — prattle on that China and, to a lesser extent Japan, own most of America's $14.3 trillion in government debt.

But there's one little problem with that conventional wisdom: it's just not true. While the Chinese, Japanese and plenty of other foreigners own substantial amounts, it's really Americans who hold most of America's debt.

Here's a quick and fascinating breakdown by total amount held and percentage of total U.S. debt, according to Business Insider:


  • Hong Kong: $121.9 billion (0.9 percent)
  • Caribbean banking centers: $148.3 (1 percent)
  • Taiwan: $153.4 billion (1.1 percent)
  • Brazil: $211.4 billion (1.5 percent)
  • Oil exporting countries: $229.8 billion (1.6 percent)
  • Mutual funds: $300.5 billion (2 percent)
  • Commercial banks: $301.8 billion (2.1 percent)
  • State, local and federal retirement funds: $320.9 billion (2.2 percent)
  • Money market mutual funds: $337.7 billion (2.4 percent)
  • United Kingdom: $346.5 billion (2.4 percent)
  • Private pension funds: $504.7 billion (3.5 percent)
  • State and local governments: $506.1 billion (3.5 percent)
  • Japan: $912.4 billion (6.4 percent)
  • U.S. households: $959.4 billion (6.6 percent)
  • China: $1.16 trillion (8 percent)
  • The U.S. Treasury: $1.63 trillion (11.3 percent)
  • Social Security trust fund: $2.67 trillion (19 percent)

So America owes foreigners about $4.5 trillion in debt. But America owes America $9.8 trillion.

For a smart take on how President Obama and House Republicans should end gridlock over debt and deficits, see our new GlobalPost series The Negotiator, which features Wharton's negotiation guru Stuart Diamond.

And to bone up on China's debt — another potentially big global economic headache — check out this interview with brainy-yet-coherent Northwestern University economist Victor Shih, who spoke with GlobalPost's David Case.

Post by:
Topics: China • Economy • United States

soundoff (1,257 Responses)
  1. NJJJ

    All the money goes to Israel and Jews because they control America

    August 16, 2011 at 11:33 pm | Reply
  2. someone

    Wow at the top Manoj Kumar you are stupid! Ghandi is not a thing; she's a person!

    August 17, 2011 at 10:57 am | Reply
  3. Take me to Court

    You know....if I ever become the US president, I will take care of this debt problem right away.

    First, I am not paying sh**t to anyone of these countries. They have problems, I will tell them I am sending back all those fu**ing foreigners that immigrated to this country with no money. You leave the country with underwear only!!!!

    Second, jobs, I will divide the unemployment number on the number of company making over certain amount, each company will have to hire those who has no jobs. you don't want to. I will tax your as* income tax, outcome tax, name it tax, tax tax……till you beg me to hire people.

    Cigarette Company, they will have to pay for all hospital bills for all cancer patients. You made profit with killing people, pay for treatment.

    Just give me the chance, in six month, everyone will be rich!!!!!

    August 17, 2011 at 9:14 pm | Reply
  4. NES

    Your U.S. debtor list only adds up to 75.5%. What about the remainder?

    August 17, 2011 at 10:56 pm | Reply
  5. Charlie

    What a turd, Spin spin spin...China is the largest FOREIGN owner.

    August 18, 2011 at 8:39 am | Reply
  6. russ46


    August 18, 2011 at 5:27 pm | Reply
  7. Romanianandproud

    ISRAEL ISRAEL ISRAEL! Israel controls USA you zionist moles at CNN! LOOK who wanted war on Iraq, ISRAEL! Who wants war on Iran, ISRAEL! Israel is costing the US trillions per year, we need Becky Rusher for American president, thank god I never went in the US. You all are brainwashed by zionist-jewish lies!

    August 18, 2011 at 6:56 pm | Reply
  8. galileo225

    All the racist and ignorant rants make me realize why man is doomed. Between religious ignorance, cultural ignorance and just a plain lack of knowledge about science, finances, and being able to think for yourselves and detect BS when you hear it you all need to get off the computer and actually read something. Not the New testament, bible the koran, fox news or any of that fiction or nonsense. Armed with some real information maybe one of you morons could make a real decision or comment...

    August 18, 2011 at 8:22 pm | Reply
  9. YesMan

    Lie Lie Lie Lie Lie...China does own the US corp. stop lying or do some more research! Israel might control the US corp. but China owns her.

    August 19, 2011 at 1:16 am | Reply
    • Chewakka


      August 22, 2011 at 7:39 am | Reply
  10. showeling snow 2

    Where is my twin. Dear, dear where are you. I missed your China bashing. You are my true american hero. Do not disappoint us, please.

    August 20, 2011 at 8:46 am | Reply
  11. reader10

    Santa Claus never got payed.

    August 20, 2011 at 6:26 pm | Reply
  12. Ape Lincoln

    One World Government, lets all kick the money habit. Every human should give there lives to science and take care of each other.

    August 20, 2011 at 11:26 pm | Reply
  13. smdahl@gmail.com

    The real question is "Who owns Fareed Zakaria?" Answer: David Rockfeller. from wikipedia:
    "...he was president of the Yale Political Union, editor-in-chief of the Yale Political Monthly, a member of the Scroll and Key society, and a member of the Party of the Right. He later earned a Ph.D degree in political science from Harvard University in 1993,[2] where he studied under Samuel P. Huntington and Stanley Hoffmann.
    Career. After directing a research project on American foreign policy at Harvard, Zakaria became managing editor of Foreign Affairs magazine [Rockefeller's mouthpiece] in 1992.

    August 21, 2011 at 5:34 pm | Reply
  14. Matt

    Umm... is it just me, or do those percentages not add up to 100? Something is missing...

    August 22, 2011 at 3:38 am | Reply
  15. Chewakka

    most of the ID's used here are bots and not real. they're used for cognitive infiltration (propaganda) to change readers opinions. use other channels if you're after real news ...

    August 22, 2011 at 7:36 am | Reply
  16. Jesseca5

    Hi, Peggy. I watch the Tech support commercial also...Funny.

    Jesse in Texas (Not in India, but my friend Gurumurhy Balasubramanian is...)

    August 22, 2011 at 9:47 pm | Reply
  17. Pianki

    Look Tom Mucha, you got to be kidding. The United States unfunded debt is $115 trillion. America citizens debt is about $57 trillion and then there is the $16 trillion you mention here. Debt owed to ones self in nothing to worry about. That which you owe to others can get you in deep trouble, like broken knee caps. Maybe you need to take a course in collections 101.

    August 23, 2011 at 6:48 am | Reply
  18. mm

    You've missed 4 trillion dollars. The breakdown doesn't add up to 100% (only 75.5% or $10.4 T). Even S&P corrected their couple of trillion dollar error by the end of the day. The truth is elusive. Good job we have math. Maybe the prattlers have a calculator.

    August 23, 2011 at 6:56 am | Reply
  19. mm

    and hong kong has been part of china for a while

    August 23, 2011 at 7:01 am | Reply
  20. YEP

    Funny how this only adds up to 75% soooooooo WHAT ABOUT HTE OTHER 25%????

    August 23, 2011 at 10:32 am | Reply
  21. Bob

    Yeah I got 10.81 trillion as the total of that list.

    August 23, 2011 at 12:24 pm | Reply
  22. Amy

    This is no revelation. Most Americans already know about America's trillions in debt. The real research and discovery is what to do about it?

    August 23, 2011 at 12:33 pm | Reply
  23. Bernard Nelson

    Sure was not aware iof this break down... Just hope its true. Now lets get on with the duty we have to repay and live within our means........Go tell the politicians.

    August 23, 2011 at 1:04 pm | Reply
  24. Miked

    take a break from this nonsense! see if you can win a free gift card from todaysreview (dot) org

    August 23, 2011 at 1:10 pm | Reply
  25. Knucklehead

    So the troll wars have begun, as predicted in the Upanishads and by Confuscius...now we shall see...

    August 23, 2011 at 2:02 pm | Reply
  26. T

    Great to see the "global public square" comments are so civilized. We deserve what we are getting.

    August 23, 2011 at 4:04 pm | Reply
  27. Jason Audisio

    It would be good if when this story was written and the percentage breakdown was provided they didnt leave 25% off. Where and who is responsible for that debt?

    August 23, 2011 at 4:05 pm | Reply
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23

Leave a Reply to Bernard Nelson


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.