China today created the China Rare Earth Group, a giant in the field of rare earths, a set of metals essential for cutting-edge technologies, on a background of rivalry and tensions with Washington.
The Asian giant is the world’s largest producer of rare earths, of this total of 17 metals used mainly in smartphones, plasma screens, electric vehicles and equipment.
The Chinese government has announced in a decree the creation of the China Rare Earth Group, which is directly linked to the state. The company comes from the merger of market players: China Minemetals Corp, Chinalco and Ganzhou Rare Earth Group.
Contrary to what their name suggests, rare earths are relatively abundant, but their electromagnetic properties, sought after in industry, make them strategically important metals.
In 2019, the United States accounted for 80% of its rare earth imports from China, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The European Union supplies 98% of China, according to a report by the European Commission in September 2020.
China is rich in rare earths, but its dominance is largely due to massive public investment in the sector as well as a large crude metal filtration network – few countries have such infrastructure.
In the face of trade and geopolitical controversy, the US and the EU are worried about a possible over-reliance on the Asian giant for rare earths and are seeking to diversify their sources of supply – much less to protect those resources. out of exhaustion, Beijing imposed export quotas.