Frankfurt working papers on East Asia
From resource advantage to economic superiority : development and implications of China's rare earth policy
- Rare Earth Elements (REE) have become the new strategic economic weapon for the modern age. Used in the manufacturing of products ranging from mobile phones to jet fighter engines, REEs have become the new “oil” of today in terms of economic and strategic importance. Currently, 95% of REEs mined globally are mined in China, giving China a monopoly on the industry. Deng Xiaoping foresaw the importance of REEs in 1992 when he commented: “as there is oil in the Middle East, there is rare earth in China.” Recently, China temporarily stopped exports of REEs to Japan, the EU and the US as an unofficial response to varying political and economic issues. This stoppage raised concerns as to the dependability of China and REE exports. Using the theory of neo-mercantilism, this paper analyzes China’s actions in the REE market and its subsequent economic and political implications. It concludes with a look at how countries are trying to position themselves away from a dependency on China.