If China’s dominance of rare earth element supplies is the global energy transition’s “elephant in the room”, then copper is the 800-pound gorilla. China’s push for outbound investment, with attendant strategic nuances, are a hallmark of emerging concerns about raw materials supply chains.
Chinese firms recognize copper’s value from at least four perspectives. First, relative to internal industrial demand, China’s domestic production is inadequate.
Second, as Chinese outbound investment has evolved to procure supply, they also are positioning themselves to capture international commodity trading opportunities.
Third, Chinese outbound investment does help to enlarge the supply pie for a key raw materials essential to ongoing economic growth and for new energy systems, including those within China aimed at reducing pollution.
However, China’s rush to build “green energy” scale and global market heft have fostered expansion of industrial pollutants as well as greenhouse gas emissions. Fourth, strong positions in the copper value chain can facilitate China’s larger industrial policy goals of making China-based enterprises, often “locally” controlled, indispensable hardware and technology suppliers for new energy development worldwide.