Chinese Media Double Down on Threats to Weaponize Rare Earths

BEIJING, CHINA - APRIL 01: The Guard of Honour of the People's Liberation Army during the welcoming ceremony at the beginning of the meeting between New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang at The Great Hall Of The People on April 01, 2019 in Beijing, China. …
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China is amplifying its threat to restrict rare earths exports to the U.S. in retaliation for tariffs and restrictions on sales of technology to Chinese telecom giant Huawei.

On Wedensday, Chinese state media continued to threaten rare earth retaliation. That followed a thinly veiled threat on Tuesday from an official from China’s powerful state planning agency that the country could place restrictions on rare earth exports by “prioritizing” domestic uses.

An article from the Xinhua News Agency, China’s official state-run new source, warned that “if anyone wants to use imported rare earths against China, the Chinese people will not agree.”

That is a reference to the use of rare earth metals by U.S. companies to manufacture goods that include mobile phones, lasers, and even guided missiles. Chinese officials have described U.S. restrictions on sales of technology Huawei as an unfair attempt to hobble the Chinese company in an effort to bolster U.S. rivals. In their view, restricting sales of rare earths to the U.S. would simply be payback.

“The Chinese people would never agree to the US using products made from rare earths exported from China to curb and suppress China’s development,” Xinhua said an article that ran in the Communist Party newspaper the People’s Daily. “We remind the US not to underestimate China’s ability to defend its rights to development and to remember not to blame anyone for not warning them.”

The Global Times, which is controlled by the Communist Party but is often more belligerently nationalist than its official state counterparts, sounded a similar note.

“Since the US Department of Commerce added Huawei to the ‘entity list,’ conjecture quickly spread that China may limit or even stop exporting rare earths to the US. It is believed that if the US increasingly suppresses the development of China, sooner or later, China will use rare earths as a weapon,” an editorial in the Global Times said.

More from the Global Times:

An export ban on rare earths is a powerful weapon if used in the China-US trade war. Nevertheless, China will mainly use it for defense. It is not the first choice of China’s offensive weaponries. This indicates that China will resolutely defend its core interests and will never bow to pressures exerted by the US. It is sincerely hoped that the US will remain restrained on trade issues and stop upping its stakes ignorantly. Otherwise, the US will see that China has a lot more countermeasures to put to use, and China has the resolution and will to fight to the end.

The Trump administration has not responded to the news of rare earth threats from China.

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