BEIJING, March 31 (Xinhua) -- China's external debt will steadily increase in 2017, but associated risks are controllable, the country's foreign exchange regulator said Friday.
Outstanding external debt totaled 1.42 trillion U.S. dollars at the end of 2016, up 2.7 percent year on year, according to a statement from the State Administration of Foreign Exchange (SAFE).
The debt has grown for three successive quarters as Chinese company deleveraging came to an end and authorities made cross-border financing easier, according to a SAFE official.
China saw a lowering of external debt between late 2014 and the first quarter of 2016, as Chinese firms repaid more debt to reduce risks, the official said.
Compared with the end of 2014, the country's external debt was down 359.3 billion dollars at the end of 2016.
The official predicted a steady rebound in overall external debt this year as China's economy maintains medium-high growth due to policies on structural transformation and industrial upgrading.
Despite an expected debt increase, the official noted that the risk remains controllable, pointing to major indicators that are well below alarm levels.
As of the end of last year, China's ratio of external debt to GDP stood at 13 percent and its debt service ratio was 6 percent, below the international alarm line of 20 percent for both indicators.
The ratio of external debt to export earnings was 65 percent, while the ratio of short-term external debt to forex reserves reached 29 percent, lower than the alarm level of 100 percent for both.