China has hinted that a trade war with the U.S. could lead to real war with a coded warning as it threatens to stop exporting essential ‘rare earth’ minerals.
A commentary in People’s Daily, the mouthpiece of China’s ruling Communist Party, today said ‘Don’t say we didn’t warn you!’ – which is a diplomatic term usually reserved by Beijing to signal the start of an armed warfare.
China yesterday said it is ‘seriously considering’ restricting exports to the United States of rare earths, 17 chemical elements used in hospital scanners, nuclear power stations and LED lights.
China accounted for 80 per cent of rare earth imports between 2014 and 2017 to the United States.
The United States replies heavily on China for rare earth products. Beijing accounted for 80 per cent of rare earth imports to Washington between 2014 and 2017. Estonia is the second largest rare earth exporter to the U.S., accounting for just six per cent of the overall volume
China is considering banning rare earths being exported to the U.S., a move which would hit the cost of everything from LED lightbulbs to phones. Pictured are samples of rare earth minerals (from left) Cerium Oxide, Bastnasite, Neodymium oxide and Lanthanum Carbonate
China is by far the world’s largest exporter of rare earth minerals, producing more than 95 per cent of the chemical elements used worldwide, or 120,000 tonnes every year
The People’s Daily column today again hinted that China will use the natural resources to pressure Donald Trump in the trade war.
‘Will rare earths become China’s counter weapon against the unreasonable crackdown from the U.S.? The answer is not profound,’ it said.
The article then went on: ‘American companies have particularly high demand for rare earth products.
‘At present, some people from the U.S. side are indeed fantasising about obtaining resources independently, but it’s unarguable that the U.S. depends highly on the global supply chain.
Chinese President Xi Jinping visits a rare earth company in southern China last week
President Xi learns about the production process and operation of the JL MAG Rare-Earth Co. Ltd. as well as the development of the rare earth industry in the city of Ganzhou
‘Without doubt, the U.S. wants to use the products made with the rare earths imported from China to suppress China’s development. Chinese people must not agree,’ it continued.
The newspaper also stressed that China would prioritise its domestic demand on rare earth elements, which it billed as the ‘vitamin for industries’.
President Xi Jinping visited a rare earth company in southern China last week, state media reported, lifting the shares of producers on speculation that this indicated Beijing was considering using the chemicals in the U.S. trade war.
Trade war: Trump, who returned from Japan with the first lady Melania Trump on Tuesday afternoon, is facing a new threat from China in their escalating tensions
President Xi Jinping visited a rare earth company in southern China last week, state media reported, lifting the shares of producers on speculation that this indicated Beijing was considering using the chemicals in the U.S. trade war
The phrase ‘Don’t say we didn’t warn you!’ is often used by Chinese Communist Party leaders during or in the lead up to military conflicts.
It was famously used by Chairman Mao in 1949 during the Chinese civil war as he warned his enemies to leave Beiping, now known as Beijing, and surrender to the Community Party.
It also appeared in People’s Daily columns in 1962 before China went to war with India over a disputed Himalayan border region as well as before the brief Sino-Vietnamese War in 1979.
Last April, China’s Xinhua News Agency also used the phrase to caution Washington after it announced plans for imposing tariffs on about 1,300 Chinese products following an investigation into the Chinese foreign trade policies.
‘Anyone who is familiar with Chinese diplomacy would know the weight of this sentence,’ a commentary at the time said.
Rising trade tensions have led to concerns that Beijing will use its dominant position as a supplier of rare earths for leverage. People’s Daily, the mouthpiece of China’s Communist Party, today hinted that a rare earths ban may happen if Washington refuses to back down
China has two major rare earth bases, Bayan Obo in the north and Ganzhou in the south
Japanese industry sources said China temporarily cut off exports to Japan in 2010 when a territorial row flared between the Asian rivals, charges that Beijing denied.
China is the world’s largest exporter of rare earths, producing more than 95 per cent of the chemical elements used worldwide, or 120,000 tonnes a year.
Beijing, however, has raised tariffs on imports of U.S. rare earth metal ores from 10 per cent to 25 per cent from June 1, making it less economical to process the material in China.
RARE EARTH ELEMENTS: WHAT ARE THEY AND WHAT DO THEY DO?
There are 17 ‘rare earth’ minerals. They are actually fairly abundant, but difficult to extract – and when they are mined, they are valuable for their uses in some of the advances which the modern world depends on, including the making of fiber-optic cables, lasers, nuclear reactors, and X-ray machines.
Here are the minerals – and some of their uses
Scandium. Found in aerospace alloys and cars’ xenon headlamps
Yttrium. Used in energy-efficient lightbulbs, spark plugs and cancer treatments
Lanthanum. Found in camera lenses, battery electrodes, and catalysts used in oil refineries
Cerium. Used in self-cleaning ovens and industrial polishers
Praseodymium. Used in lasers and cigarette lighters
Neodymium. Used in electric motors for electric cars, hi-tech capacitors
Promethium. Found in luminous paint
Samarium. Used in the control rods of nuclear reactors, lasers and atomic clocks
Europium. Used in fluorescent lamps, MRI scanners
Gadolinium. Found in computer memory chips, steel, X-ray machines
Terbium. Used in sonar systems on navy vessels, fuel cells on hi-tech cars
Dysprosium. Used in hard disk drives and lasers
Holmium. Used in mass spectrometers by hospitals and forensic scientists
Erbium. Used in catalysts for the chemicals industry and in batteries designed to store power for the electrical grid
Thulium. Found in portable X-ray machines and lasers
Ytterbium. Used in stainless steel, thyroid cancer treatment and earthquake monitoring
Lutetium. Used in LED lightbulbs, oil refining and medical PET scans