China’s monopoly on rare earth minerals is a danger to the United States. Newly proposed legislation, however, seeks to circumvent that threat.
The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare how dependent the U.S. is on Chinese manufacturing and goods, including what are termed “rare earths,” a group of metals used to make magnets found in electronics, weaponry, and vehicles.
Indeed, REs are an essential component of the tools that the U.S. military needs to wage war. As importantly, they are an essential component in our country’s domestic infrastructure, underwriting essential technology in healthcare, food supply, telecommunications — an endless list that post-pandemic America can no longer take for granted.
China produces or controls more than 70% of the world’s mined REs and refines more than 80%. According to one analysis , “China and Chinese controlled enterprises produce more than 99% of all so-called new REs metals.” That gives Beijing control over an increasingly important sector of the world’s economy — and tremendous leverage to exert its will.