A new report suggests that China is considering the idea of banning the export of rare-earth minerals to countries it deems a threat. If only someone could have warned us.
Of course, some may remember that just a few short months ago, a prominent political figure did warn of this problem. That figure was former President Donald Trump.
In October, Trump declared a national emergency in the mining industry in an executive order “aimed at boosting domestic production of rare earth minerals critical for military technologies while reducing the country’s dependence on China,” according to Defense News.
For those who are not familiar with rare-earth minerals, Defense News defined them as “a group of 17 minerals critical to the defense industry’s manufacturing of missiles and munitions, hypersonic weapons, and radiation-hardened electronics — as well as consumer electronics like cellphones.”
These minerals can be found all over the world, but mining them is very expensive and takes time. As a result, the United States has relied heavily on the Chinese for these materials because they have an efficient system already in place.
As of October, 80 percent of rare-earth minerals in the United States came directly from China, according to Defense News.
Depending on a foreign adversary for such a large percentage of any necessary material is dangerous. The fact that this material is critical for national defense is even worse.
Trump indicated that China would not be afraid to use America’s dependence on its rare-earth minerals as leverage in a trade war. The Global Times, a Chinese Communist Party-run publication, even said as much in May 2019.
According to the Global Times, a spokesman for the National Development and Reform Commission of China said, “If any country wants to use products made of China’s rare earth exports to contain China’s development, the Chinese people would not be happy with that.”
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“Industry insiders said that the comment, in a rare case, sends an implicit signal that China does not hesitate using rare earths as a weapon against the US amid the escalating trade war and US containment of Huawei,” the state media outlet reported.
Now, Bloomberg is reporting that China is considering taking action to restrict the export of rare-earth minerals.
“China may ban the export of rare-earths refining technology to countries or companies it deems as a threat on state security concerns, according to a person familiar with the matter,” Bloomberg reported.
“While China has no plans to restrict shipments of rare earths to the U.S., it is keeping the plan in its back pocket should a trade war break out again, the person said.”
China has an incredible amount of power in this situation. If the United States does basically anything the Chinese do not like, then they can withhold these important minerals.
Given the problematic policies of the governing party in China, it is dangerous for the U.S. to be in a position where it must cater to the country’s wishes.
In addition, China could potentially withhold these materials in a situation where the United States or other countries need to protect themselves against China.
Bloomberg also reported that China is also “exploring a ban on rare earths as part of its sanctions on some individual companies, including Lockheed Martin Corp., which violated China’s core interest over arms sale to Taiwan,” according to its unnamed source.
That is an incredibly worrisome statement. As the United States tries to help Taiwan fight against an authoritarian nation, that nation itself has the power to stop its neighbor from acquiring certain weapons.
Imagine the implications if America were to have to wage war against China.
So far, President Joe Biden has shown himself to be much softer on China than Trump was. If he does not change that, America could be in serious trouble.
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