As previously documented several times and warned about in the past, the threat of China’s rare earth monopol is being weaponized. This wasn’t suddenly an issue that popped up under Trump because Trump happens to be the current U.S. President. It was one threat of many in the making by China used as a means to an end, with the end game being a United States defeat — eventually militarily.
For further information, see the following previous posts:
The U.S. shouldn’t underestimate China’s ability to fight the trade war, the People’s Daily, a flagship newspaper of the ruling Communist Party, said in an editorial Wednesday that used some historically significant language on the weight of China’s intent.
The newspaper’s commentary included a rare Chinese phrase that means “don’t say I didn’t warn you.” The specific wording was used by the paper in 1962 before China went to war with India, and “those familiar with Chinese diplomatic language know the weight of this phrase,” the Global Times, a newspaper affiliated with the Communist Party, said in an article last April. It was also used before conflict broke out between China and Vietnam in 1979.
On rare earths specifically, the People’s Daily said it isn’t hard to answer the question whether China will use the elements as retaliation in the trade war.
China is “seriously” considering restricting rare earth exports to the U.S. and may also implement other countermeasures, the editor-in-chief of the Global Times, said in a tweet. An official at the National Development & Reform Commission told CCTV that people in the country won’t be happy to see products made with exported rare earths being used to suppress China’s development.
Editorials in the Global Times and Shanghai Securities News took similar tacks in their Wednesday editions.
The nation’s producers have rallied hard in recent weeks on the view that rare earths could be an ace in the trade war. President Xi Jinping visited a plant earlier this month, accompanied by his chief trade negotiator with the U.S., fueling speculation that the strategic materials could be weaponized in China’s tit-for-tat with the U.S.
The U.S. relies on China, the leading global supplier, for about 80% of its rare earths, which are used in a host of applications from smartphones to electric vehicles to military gear. Rare earths, which include elements such as neodymium, used in magnets, and ytrrium for electronics, are relatively abundant in the earth’s crust, but mine-able concentrations are less common than other ores.
China’s rare earth market is dominated by a handful of producers including China Northern Rare Earth Group, Minmetals Rare Earth Co., Xiamen Tungsten Co. and Chinalco Rare Earth & Metals Co. The nation has form in using the elements to make a political point. It blocked exports to Japan after a maritime dispute in 2010, although the consequent spike in prices saw a flurry of activity to secure supplies elsewhere, which would be the risk again if Beijing follows through with its threat of retaliation.
China’s stranglehold is so strong that the U.S. joined with other nations earlier this decade in a World Trade Organization case to force the nation to export more amid a global shortage. The WTO ruled in favor of America, while prices eventually slumped as manufacturers turned to alternatives.
In December 2017, U.S. President Donald Trump signed an executive order to reduce the country’s dependence on external sources of critical minerals, including rare earths, which was aimed at reducing U.S. vulnerability to supply disruptions.
Full article: China Gears Up to Weaponize Rare Earths in Trade War (Yahoo!)