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China has treated data on the country’s level of gold imports as a state secret—until last week.

And the newly public data shows that China is on a path that would have the country overtake India as the world’s largest consumer of gold.

Think this might be bullish for the price of gold and gold stocks?

In the first ten months of 2010 China imported 209 metric tons of gold—that’s about five times the 45 metric tons analysts think the country imported in 2009.

China is already the world’s largest miner of gold. Total gold demand in China hit 450 metric tons in 2009, the World Gold Council estimates. Total gold demand in India was 612 metric tons in 2009.

The big driven in the increased demand is exactly what it is around the world this year: investors spooked by market volatility and economic uncertainty have moved to gold. Chinese investors and savers have had another incentive to move to gold: Now that inflation has picked up to an annual 4.4% rate, China’s low interest rates on savings deposits mean keeping money in the bank results in losing roughly 2% a year to inflation.

The Beijing government gave regulatory blessing to the move to gold in August when new rules to regulate the gold market in China also expanded the number of banks allowed to import gold. That’s enabled more Chinese consumers to buy gold more easily.

The boom in gold sales in China has also led to a boom in fake gold. The most popular scam involves bars of gold-plated tungsten.