China’s rare earth threat is getting real

Foreign Affairs

As per the Simpsons, nothing happened on Tiananmen Square in Beijing on June 4 this year. But nearby on Yuetan Street, an important meeting was held at the headquarters of the powerful government department known as the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC).

The aim of the meeting was — according to Xinhua’s Chinese report — how to promote “the high-quality development of the rare earth industry in China.” But nationalistic rag Global Times better captures the real goal: China to make full use of rare-earth card in containing U.S.   

In response, the U.S. Commerce Department vowed “unprecedented action to ensure that the United States will not be cut off from these vital materials.”

  • “Rare earth elements are used in a wide range of consumer products, from iPhones to electric car motors, as well as military jet engines, satellites and lasers,” explains Reuters.

We have reached a stage of mutual hostility between the U.S. and China in which it’s difficult to say what exactly the rare earth threat is retaliation for. Huawei? Tariffs? Trump tweets? Mike Pompeo’s remarks? All these, and a thousand other irritants, are part of the same toxic stew.

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