As of January 2011, foreigners owned $4.45 trillion of U.S. debt, or approximately 47 percent of the debt held by the public of $9.49 trillion and 32 percent of the total debt of $14.1 trillion.
The largest holders were the central banks of China, Japan, the United Kingdom and Brazil.
The share held by foreign governments has grown over time, rising from 13 percent of the public debt in 1988 to 25 percent in 2007.
SOURCE: Treasury Department
National Debt Glossary
Looks up the key terms for understanding America's financial crisis
Frequently Asked Questions: National Debt
- How did the national debt get to be so big?
- What's the difference between the debt and the deficit?
- Why can't the government just print more money to get out of debt?
- How much U.S. debt is owned by foreign countries?