Trump Has Exaggerated the Threat of China’s Monopoly on Rare Earths

Chinese inspectors walk past piles of rare earth on a quay at the Port of Lianyungang in Jiangsu province, China, May 22, 2016 (Photo by Wang Chun for Imaginechina via AP Images).
Chinese inspectors walk past piles of rare earth on a quay at the Port of Lianyungang in Jiangsu province, China, May 22, 2016 (Photo by Wang Chun for Imaginechina via AP Images).
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As its trade war with the United States goes on, China in recent months has raised the possibility of weaponizing its control over 80 percent of the world’s supply of rare earths, minerals that are used in a wide array of important industrial and consumer products. In response, Washington wants to partner with other countries to help develop their mineral reserves to diversify the global supply chain, and even boost its own domestic supplies. But while that may sound sensible on paper, it is based on an unrealistic portrayal of the threat posed by China’s near-monopoly supply of rare earths, […]

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