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Earth Government Politics Technology

China Now Halting Shipments of Rare Earth Minerals To US 738

blackraven14250 writes with news that China, after putting at least a temporary stop to rare earth exports to Japan, is now doing the same with exports to the US; according to the linked article, this is in response to recent US promises to investigate certain Chinese trade practices.
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China Now Halting Shipments of Rare Earth Minerals To US

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  • by russotto ( 537200 ) on Tuesday October 19, 2010 @10:46PM (#33956338) Journal

    From TFA, emphasis mine:

    The United Steelworkers, in a September petition to the Obama administration, argue that China is unfairly subsidizing exports to encourage companies in the country to send their clean energy products around the world. At the same time, the union accuses China of limiting the exports of certain rare-earth minerals necessary to produce solar panels so that foreign companies will settle in the country.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 19, 2010 @10:47PM (#33956354)

    Because we haven't outsourced enough to China already.

  • a trade war? good (Score:5, Insightful)

    by brxndxn ( 461473 ) on Tuesday October 19, 2010 @10:56PM (#33956436)

    Nothing gets the American economy going like a good challenge..

    Foreign companies invest in China. Then, China creates a Chinese alternative.. state-run.. state-subsidized.. copying the foreign model. Only.. China manipulates their currency for an export advantage. China keeps their middle class underpaid (while the government hordes money). And safety? Safety costs money.. Harming an American worker is more expensive than keeping him safe.. In China, harm a Chinese worker.. and replace him with one of the horde.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U-LLsODnuHI [youtube.com]

    As American consumers, we pay less for cheap plastic crap now.. at the expense of our jobs and quality..

    And Walmart leads the way.. fastest from store shelves to landfills.

    • Re:a trade war? good (Score:5, Interesting)

      by cappp ( 1822388 ) on Tuesday October 19, 2010 @11:24PM (#33956632)
      I read an article [foreignpolicy.com] yesterday which dealt exactly with that point and the author noted

      Somehow these successes from America's last great trade war have been forgotten -- blotted out by patriotic sloganeering ("American industry pulled up its socks to meet the Japanese challenge)"

      . The writer pretty much argues that the last trade war wasn't really won at all,

      Most U.S. producers never recovered what they lost in the 1980s. In fact, the question of just who beat whom in the last great trade war has no easy answer. Consider this: Japanese GDP growth from 1990 to 2000 -- Japan's so-called lost decade -- was just 0.2 percent less than America's when you account for increases in the U.S. population. And Japan comes out ahead on a per capita basis. Even with the battering it took, Japan's productivity growth outpaced that of U.S. workers in the 1990s.

      and even that limited success was more a factor of specific global issues and not because of American industry. Give it a read, it makes an interesting argument.

  • by UnixUnix ( 1149659 ) on Tuesday October 19, 2010 @11:06PM (#33956500) Homepage
    ...but even so, was it THAT difficult for a number of US Administrations to realize the strategic inportance of rare earths, instead of standing idle while US production dwindled into nothingness? So now, hello urban mining. Good thing I still have my old cell phones, they might fetch a price.
  • Third parties? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jjh37997 ( 456473 ) on Tuesday October 19, 2010 @11:17PM (#33956588) Homepage

    What to prevent a third party from buying these resources and then selling them to Japan or US?

  • Environmentalism (Score:4, Interesting)

    by peterindistantland ( 1487953 ) on Tuesday October 19, 2010 @11:31PM (#33956678)
    China's rare earth supply should be boycotted anyway, because of the massive pollution caused by their unregulated mining practice.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Luckyo ( 1726890 )

      The main reason production of many rare earths exists mainly in China and moved out of North America and Europe is the extremely polluting and toxic process of extraction.

      Theirs isn't really that much worse then what ours was back when we were extracting rare earths.

  • by ad454 ( 325846 ) on Tuesday October 19, 2010 @11:45PM (#33956786) Journal
    Considering that the US needs China to buy its public debt, more than China needs the US to buy its goods, there isn't much the US can do.

    Unless the US can get a collation of country blocks (like NAFTA, EU, OPEC, etc.), perhaps with a ruling by the WTO, to joint together in trade sanctions against China. Countries like Canada, Australia, and others that provide a lot of mineral and energy resources to China would have a lot more influence.

    Remember that China does not produce sufficient mineral and energy resources, not to mention food, for its economy and to feed its population.

    As a Canadian, I hope that our government demands guarantees that China not to restrict rare-earth shipments to Canada, or Canada will block all resource and food shipments to China.
    • by Dunbal ( 464142 ) * on Wednesday October 20, 2010 @12:49AM (#33957176)

      Considering that the US needs China to buy its public debt,

      China doesn't have to buy US debt. Especially if commodities start trading in something other than US dollars. After all, why the hell would you support the dollar today? The interest rate sucks, the US government is spending more than ever before, and the US economy (which has been in the tank for a while now) continues to struggle. Plus add this to the fact that US banks have no idea who they have loaned money to - no, there are far wiser places to put your money today than US treasury notes. In fact, almost anywhere BUT US T-bills will get you a better return.

      The US is in for a very, very rude awakening in my opinion. Gross incompetence has been demonstrated on both a government, military and economic level. I'm just glad I don't live there.

      • by sjbe ( 173966 ) on Wednesday October 20, 2010 @05:47AM (#33958544)

        China doesn't have to buy US debt.

        Actually they do have to buy US debt. China manages their currency and the only way to maintain their currency at a weak exchange rate to the dollar is to buy US Treasuries. China cannot stop buying dollars in the short term even if they want to.

        Especially if commodities start trading in something other than US dollars.

        Won't happen any time soon. The dollar is the world's de-facto reserve currency. Many commodities (including oil) trade in US dollars. This is not likely to change.

        After all, why the hell would you support the dollar today? The interest rate sucks,

        Which interest rate, out of curiosity, are you referring to? Currencies don't have interest rates. Treasury bills do, but yields on government debt are low everywhere except on governments in risk of default (like Greece). Furthermore, the coupon on US treasuries is almost always lower than for most other debt because it is considered safer than any other debt. US treasuries are backed by the ability of the US government (which has never defaulted) to raise taxes on the biggest single economy in the world. Nothing is perfectly safe but that's about as good as it gets.

        the US government is spending more than ever before, and the US economy (which has been in the tank for a while now) continues to struggle.

        It's a global recession. Every major economy is struggling, not just the US.

        Plus add this to the fact that US banks have no idea who they have loaned money to -

        I have no idea where you got this idea or what you are referring to. I'm pretty sure the US banks have a very good idea who they have loaned to. They have other problems but knowing who their debtors are is not one of them.

        no, there are far wiser places to put your money today than US treasury notes. In fact, almost anywhere BUT US T-bills will get you a better return.

        No one invests in T-bills to get a big return. The return on Tbills has been very low for most of the last century when compared with alternatives. Hell, the calculations for cost of investments is usually found starting with the so called risk-free rate (normally US Treasuries which are considered the world around to be the closest thing to a risk free investment) plus some additional interest to compensate for additional risk. The reason people buy them is because they are safe or because (like China) they are trying to manage their exchange rates. If you are looking for a big return, government debt is rarely the best option out there.

  • Ha, Ha! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 19, 2010 @11:49PM (#33956814)

    Joke's on you, China!

    We don't manufacture anything anymore!

  • by haruchai ( 17472 ) on Wednesday October 20, 2010 @01:16AM (#33957330)

    For decades, America has been enriching its enemies and opponents by voracious consumption of oil, offshoring of jobs, insatiable appetite for foreign-made, cheap goods and China has capitalized ( communized? ) on the USoA's stupidity and gamed the system with its currency policies. And, now this?

    Wake up, America!!! It's time to get back to the business of making and building things yourselves. Mr Obama, sometimes you have to unsheath the Iron Fist; it can't always be the velvet glove.
    Block all Chinese imports, eject the Chinese ambassador and announce a free trade agreement with Taiwan, Japan, Singapore and Australia. And take some of that damnable corporate and farming welfare money and pour it into materials research so that you have alternatives or reasonable substitutes for the lanthanides ( or maybe just invent some really cool materials ).

    But...... don't wait. ACT IMMEDIATELY. Screw the governing by committee. Just fucking make it so!!

  • Lithium? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MikShapi ( 681808 ) on Wednesday October 20, 2010 @01:35AM (#33957442) Journal

    Let's connect the dots.....
    China wants to drive.
    They're adding more cars on the road a year than the US and Europe combined (~2-3mil/year national car parc growth)
    Chery, their biggest independent car maker, has signed a deal with Better Place. They're almost completely leapfrogging the Internal Combustion Engine altogether. Beijin's mayor deputy has visited Better Place in Israel multiple times.
    Right now, anyone who ignores what the hybrid-entrenched car companies (Read: Toyota, Chevrolet, Honda) are saying and has his ear to the ground knows one thing:
    Once an electric car stops being a greenie status symbol 10K$ more expensive than an ICE car, and starts being 10K$ cheaper than an ICE car (which is what the Better Place model does), Multi-Trillion-Dollar-Industry (Oil and Automotive combined) undergoes BIG disruption happens. All hell breaks loose.
    Priuses have moved in production from 10,000car/anum to 100,000car/anum.
    Renault, on the other hand, the boldest pure-EV company (and Better Place's biggest partner), just geared up for a 1,000,000car/anum production in Turkey. They know one thing: When Better Place starts running cross-subsidy ("Free iPhone on a 3-year-plan") on a car that's 10K$ car cheaper (batteries not included), subsidized by government to the tune of another 5K$-10K$, and is 5K$ cheaper than hybrid/ice because there is no ICE, and starts giving away cars for free... ... and this is not distant future. This is 60,000 presold vehicles in Israel today, and retail rollout in the upcoming 4 months....
    Then Renault doesn't have a demand problem like Toyota do. They have a supply problem. It becomes a question of how many cars you can hand out for free.

    All the big players - namely countries - know this. It's no secret, and Shai Agassi is all over YouTube like a rash. Everyone is watching Israel, Denmark and Australia very closely.
    This is why Japan, China, Europe and the US have dumped 4 BIL$ into car battery production, when nobody is actually producing anywhere near this many cars yet.

    By 2015-2016, there will be more electric cars sold than ICE ones.

    And in the middle of it is the one technology pretty much all the big car players have agreed on - Lithium Ion. Afghanistan and Bolivia, large as their stash may be, is not happening anytime soon. [discovery.com]
    It'll be Argentina & Chile's salt flats, slightly more expensive Lithium from spodumene ore in Australia, China (and to lesser extent North America and some other locations in the world), and for countries that are willing to pay premium for national security and divorcing workforce driving to work from import dependence like Korea - production from ocean seawater.

    China is concerned wants to make sure it's lithium needs are served before everything else.
    This development is anything but surprising.

PL/I -- "the fatal disease" -- belongs more to the problem set than to the solution set. -- Edsger W. Dijkstra, SIGPLAN Notices, Volume 17, Number 5