Rare Earths in the US-China Trade War – by Mercy A. Kuo (The Diplomat – July 23, 2019)


Trans-Pacific View author Mercy Kuo regularly engages subject-matter experts, policy practitioners, and strategic thinkers across the globe for their diverse insights into U.S. Asia policy. This conversation with Ryan Castilloux – Managing Director of Adamas Intelligence, a Canadian independent research and advisory firm focused on strategic metals and minerals – is the 198th in “The Trans-Pacific View Insight Series.”

Explain the strategic importance of rare earth elements in U.S. commercial and military technology.

From a commercial standpoint, the rare earth lanthanum is used in the U.S. to produce fuel cracking catalysts that break down crude oil into lighter hydrocarbons like gasoline, diesel, and kerosene.

Similarly, neodymium, praseodymium, and dysprosium are used to produce high-strength permanent magnets that are critical enablers of electric vehicle traction motors, wind power generators, energy-efficient appliances, consumer electronics, and an ever-growing list of other modern technologies.

From a defense point of view, rare earths are used in a wide array of applications. Yttrium, for example, is used to produce thermal barrier coatings that protect jet engine parts from melting during operation. Other rare earths are used to produce phosphors for avionic display screens, laser crystals for weapons guidance systems, and permanent magnets used in missile tail-fin actuators or aircraft components.

Therefore, because rare earths are used so widely in commercial and defense technologies, and supply is dominated by a single nation, the strategic importance of rare earths to the U.S. is high.

For the rest of this article: https://thediplomat.com/2019/07/rare-earths-in-the-us-china-trade-war/

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