After expressing its disappointment about U.S. claims that it may be unfairly subsidizing its renewable energy industry, China has upped the ante with all out economic warfare. China has today extended its ban on the export of rare earth elements to the United States.
China is the world’s leading source of rare earth metals, which are used to manufacture many staples of the modern world ranging from electronics, hybrid cars, solar panels and wind turbines to guided missiles. The rest of the world lags far behind its production capacity.
Last month, China froze shipments of the metals to Japan following a border dispute. Its tussle with the United States stems from dueling accusations about which country is trading more unfairly than the other. The Obama administration called on Congress take action to diversify sources of supply.
China’s decision to extend its ban on rare earth element exports to the United States is stunningly disappointing. Resources are finite, and will only become more scarce in the future. I hope that cooler heads will prevail, and cooperation and trade will trump confrontation.
The world faces an unprecedented energy (and environmental) problem, but the world’s two largest economies are squabbling. We can do better, even if past is precedent.