Thu, May 30, 2019 - Page 1 News List

Beijing steps up rare earths threat


Chinese state media yesterday dangled the threat of cutting exports of rare earths to the US as a counterstrike in the trade dispute, potentially depriving Washington of a key resource used to make everything from smartphones to military hardware.

The warning is the latest salvo in a dispute that has intensified since US President Donald Trump ramped up tariffs against China and moved to blacklist Huawei Technologies Co (華為) earlier this month, while trade talks have apparently stalled.

Beijing had already dropped a big hint that rare earths could be in the firing line by showing images last week of Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) visiting a rare earths factory in Ganzhou.

State media yesterday made it clearer.

“Will rare earths become China’s counterweapon against the unprovoked suppression of the US? The answer is not mysterious,” the People’s Daily said. “We advise the US not to underestimate China’s ability to safeguard its own development rights and interests, and not to say we didn’t warn you.”

The Global Times in an editorial said that the “US will rue forcing China’s hand on rare earths.”

“It is believed that if the US increasingly suppresses the development of China, sooner or later China will use rare earths as a weapon,” it said.

China produces more than 95 percent of the world’s rare earths and the US relies on China for upwards of 80 percent of its imports.

The Global Times said that banning rare-earth exports to the US could “produce complex effects, including incurring certain losses on China itself.”

“China also clearly knows that the US would suffer greater losses in that situation,” it added.

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