China already controls much of the world’s trade in rare earth minerals, which are vital to many new technologies from cell phones to fighter jets. Now the country’s leadership is aiming for more control. Given China’s history with rare earths, there should probably be tariffs on any rare earth metals produced in the country to allow foreign competition. Keith Zhai reports in The Wall Street Journal:
China has approved the creation of one of the world’s largest rare-earths companies to aim to maintain its dominance in the global supply chain of the strategic metals as tensions deepen with the U.S., according to people familiar with the matter.
The new firm will be called China Rare Earth Group and will be based in resource-rich Jiangxi province in southern China as soon as this month, the people said. The new entity would be created by merging rare-earths assets from some state firms, including China Minmetals Corp. , Aluminum Corp. of China Ltd. and Ganzhou Rare Earth Group Co.
The combined group is designed to further strengthen Beijing’s pricing power and avoid infighting among Chinese firms, and to use that clout to undercut Western efforts to dominate critical technologies, one of the people said.
Estimates of China’s dominance of the rare-earth industry vary. Some analysts say China mines more than 70% of the world’s rare earths and is responsible for 90% of the complex process of turning them into magnets, analysts say. A White House report has estimated that China controls 55% of the world’s rare-earth mining and 85% of the refining process.
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