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Today – as we like to do every couple of years – we consider all the gold in China.

Next time the international money system comes under stress – and that time may not be far away – where the gold is, and who owns it, could be of great importance.

The world’s central banks have been stocking up on gold

You may think gold is an antiquated asset, irrelevant to a modern digital world. China clearly doesn’t. Since the global financial crisis, China has been accumulating gold at a staggering pace.

The implications are considerable.

There are going to be lots of numbers in this piece, so to anchor you with some kind of perspective, let me give you some of the major figures.

Total global central bank gold reserves stand at just below 34,000 tonnes, which is roughly 20% of the 175,000-or-so tonnes of total above ground supply.

The US is the world’s largest owner with 8,133 tonnes. That number works out at around an ounce per citizen. Precious metals analyst Nick Laird reckons that if you add private and institutional holdings to this official 8,133 tonnes, there are 26,000–27,000 tonnes in the US overall.

Below is table of central bank gold holdings, using World Gold Council Data data. In gold terms, these are the richest 20 nations. The UK sits proudly at 17th, two places below Kazakhstan and...

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