As President Donald Trump continues to escalate his already disastrous trade war, China is threatening to pull the trigger on a retaliatory tactic that could wreak havoc in the United States.
The United States relies on rare earth elements, more than 95 percent of which are produced by China.
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We use these 17 elements in the production of electronics such as televisions, smartphones, and other technology. But our military would be especially hit because rare earth elements are used for jet engines, missile guidance systems, anti-missile defense systems, satellites, and lasers.
Not only that, the stock market would likely react negatively to any such move to ban rare earth element exports to the United States.
But China has that power, and they are strongly considering using it.
Chinese state media sources are already making the threat clear.
“Will rare earths become China’s counter-weapon against the unprovoked suppression of the US?” The People’s Daily asked. “The answer is not mysterious. We advise that the US not to underestimate China’s ability to safeguard its own development rights and interests, and not to say we didn’t warn you.”
Chinese state media outlet The Global Times wrote that the “US will rue forcing China’s hand on rare earths.”
“It is believed that if the US increasingly suppresses the development of China, sooner or later, China will use rare earths as a weapon,” The Global Times continued, conceding that while banning exports of rare earth elements would “produce complex effects, including incurring certain losses on China itself…China also clearly knows that the US would suffer greater losses in that situation.”
An anonymous member of China’s National Development and Reform Commission upped the ante in a statement on Tuesday.
“What I can tell you is that if anyone wants to use products made from our rare-earth exports to curb and suppress China’s development, I’m sure the people of Ganzhou and across China will not be happy with that,” the official said.
Rare earth element exports is not the only weapon China has in its arsenal against us. Trump is currently relying on borrowed money from China to aid farmers hurt by his trade wars. It would only be too easy to deny the United States more credit and to call in the debts we already owe.
Trump’s brinkmanship is going to do significant harm to the United States economy and to the world economy if he doesn’t end his temper tantrum soon. The fact is that American industries and the military both rely on rare earth element production and it would take years to restart production for those elements here. China has moves it can make, and while Trump may think Americans can handle more pain, China is not nearly as reliant on technology as we are.
It’s time for Trump to reach an agreement and move on, because he’s not going to win a protracted trade war, especially a trade war he once claimed is “easy to win.”
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