Gold imports into China have soared this year, turning the country, already the largest bullion miner, into a major overseas buyer for the first time in recent memory.
The surge, which comes as Chinese investors look for insurance against rising inflation and currency appreciation, puts China on track to overtake India as the world’s largest consumer of gold and a powerful force in global prices.
The size of the imports – more than 209 tonnes of gold during the first 10 months of the year, a five-fold increase from an estimate of 45 tonnes last year – was revealed on Thursday. In the past, China has kept the number secret.
“Investment is really driving demand for gold,” said Cai Minggang, at the Beijing Precious Metals Exchange. “People don’t have any better investment options. Look at the stock market, or the property market – you could make huge losses there.”
“真正推动黄金需求的是投资，”北京贵金属交易所(Beijing Precious Metals Exchange)的蔡明刚（音）表示。“人们没有更好的投资选择。看看股市或楼市，你在那里可能遭受严重亏损。”
Beijing has encouraged retail consumption, with an announcement in August of measures to promote and regulate the local market, including expanding the banks allowed to import bullion.
Shen Xiangrong, chairman of the Shanghai Gold Exchange, who disclosed the import numbers, said uncertainties about the Chinese and global economies, and inflationary expectations, had “made gold, as a hedging tool, very popular”.
透露上述黄金进口数据的上海黄金交易所(Shanghai Gold Exchange)理事长沈祥荣表示，围绕中国乃至全球经济的不确定性，加上通胀预期，使作为对冲工具的黄金深受欢迎。
The rise in Chinese demand could further inflate gold prices. Bullion hit a nominal all-time high of $1,424.10 a troy ounce last month. But adjusted for inflation, prices are far from the 1980 peak of $2,300.
“The trend is undeniable – gold demand in China is rising rapidly,” said Walter de Wet, of Standard Bank in London.
“这一趋势是不容否认的——中国的黄金需求正在快速上升，”标准银行(Standard Bank)驻伦敦的魏文德(Walter de Wet)表示。
China surpassed South Africa three years ago as the world’s largest producer.
The market upswing has prompted an increase in gold scams in Hong Kong, according to industry executives. The counterfeits have shocked the Chinese territory’s gold community not because of the amounts involved – between 200 and 2,000 ounces – but because of their sophistication.
In one case, executives discovered a coating advertised as pure gold that masked a complex alloy, which included rare metals such as osmium, iridium, ruthenium and rhodium.
The US Congress moved closer to punishing China for allegedly manipulating its currency, as a key committee of the House of Representatives voted to advance legislation that could