Can China's Rare Earth Monopoly Be Broken? | WHAT REALLY HAPPENED

Can China's Rare Earth Monopoly Be Broken?

A group of seventeen metallic elements whose names most of us have never heard recently came into the spotlight amid the latest trade tension escalation between Beijing and Washington. Rare earths, used in a myriad of products from electronic displays to lasers and electric cars, are currently the dominion of China and there is concern it could decide to weaponize this dominion.

There is precedent.

Back in 2011, as a territorial dispute between China and Japan got rough, Beijing imposed a rare earths export embargo on its neighbor. The result: soaring prices as everyone started stockpiling in case things got even rougher until the World Trade Organization intervened and China lifted the embargo.

China is home to 85 percent of the world’s rare earths production capacity, and unlike other countries it has spend decades developing the most efficient technologies not just for extracting them but for processing these seventeen metals as well, as a recent in-depth analysis of the situation from the South China Morning Post noted. In short, China has the resources and the know-how to extract them. In a trade war this is a major advantage.