China’s ban on rare earths didn’t work on Japan and won’t work in the trade war with the US

China’s ban on rare earths didn’t work on Japan and won’t work in the trade war with the US

  • China is the world’s biggest producer of rare earths but doesn’t have the monopoly on them
  • After Beijing briefly weaponised them against Tokyo, the Japanese built their own supply chain. China should not use them again, against the US

China has made no secret of its intention to weaponise the strategic market it dominates to retaliate against the US for the Trump administration’s decision to cut off telecoms giant Huawei’s supplies of microchips and components.

The state media and officials have joined a chorus of threats to block exports of rare earths to the US as a counterstrike in the spiralling trade war, with Global Times saying the minerals that the US relies on are “an ace in Beijing’s hand”.

President Xi Jinping reinforced such a possibility when he visited a rare earth processing firm in Jiangxi province, following his US counterpart Donald Trump’s move against Huawei. The state media, well aware of the destructiveness of such a counter-attack, have indicated that China is prepared to fight the trade war with the US to the bitter end.