This is the good news. China just shut down any possibility of war with the US.
In the ongoing trade war between the US and China, President Xi stood in front of a rare earth mineral mine a few days ago to give a speech. He did not say it but the location and timing are widely taken as an implication that should the US continue the trade war as it is going, China could well restrict or cease shipping rare earth minerals to the US.
What are rare earth minerals? What makes them important? Rare earth minerals are not all that rare as far as usage is concerned. They are vital components in modern electronics. From earbuds and headphones to cell phones, wind turbines, telecommunications equipment and satellite communications. They are also vital to modern military equipment such as targeting and guidance systems.
China holds the greatest reserve of rare earth minerals at 44 million tons. The next highest reserve equals half that amount at 22 million tons each, held by Brazil and Vietnam. Russia comes in third at 12 million tons. The US comes in seventh, at roughly 1.4 million tons.
Some claim that the US can develop our mining and refinement of rare earth minerals. Yet they are so valuable by weight that it would seem to me that capitalist investors would have been doing that already, should it be a realistic option. Which means that if that industry is developed, US taxpayers will be subsidizing corporate profits on yet another industry. Socialism for the rich, capitalism for we, the taxpayers.
Some sources claim we can develop equipment which doesn’t use rare earth minerals. Hmm. Once again, I’m guessing this is not a first best option or we would have been doing so. Why pay additional expenses for elements which are not necessary? It would be a definite possibility but also possible that would place the US at tremendous technological disadvantage. Our electronics could be less efficient, less accurate and slower. Cost could be either lower or higher, depending on the materials and technology used.
Obviously gold could replace some mineral components but not all. Using gold could increase cost of electronics higher, making US consumer electronics less competitive unless built for durability, which most modern electronics are not designed for.
Obviously it would be possible to purchase rare earth minerals from other countries that hold greater reserves than we do. However, if China chose to not sell to us, it would be well known by those countries, causing prices to skyrocket. Law of supply and demand. We won’t be buying them from Russia, even if we wanted to at this point.
Thus, should China choose to make such a decision it would leave the US at a distinct disadvantage militarily, technologically and possibly economically.
The only other option would be if all rare earth minerals were diverted to military use. That would leave us at even more disadvantage regarding technological trade, which is one of the most profitable trade items by weight and volume.
As far as blocking China’s access to the Android operating system and partnerships, the result is likely to be the same as sanctions on Russia had. They will accelerate development of their own technologies, spreading new operating systems to Asia and Europe, the largest foreign markets whom we trade with. Leaving Google in the dust. That would mean Google trading partners would no longer be paying Google for advertising to markets Android no longer had access to.
Like I said above, this is only accelerating the development of technologies which China has already been working on. They may contract with experts from other countries, including Europe, other Asian countries, India, Russia and American freelancers. Hey, capitalism is capitalism, right? Other countries pulling away from us and advancing beyond us is only a matter of time. Asia and Europe are already expanding 5G and green energy years ahead of the US. In teh case of China, you can blame Trump all you like but they began accelerating their technological development toward more independence from the US ever since Obama’s “Pivot to Asia” which continued on with the Hillary Clinton campaign (“We could rename the Pacific Ocean the American Sea.”) and the Trump campaign. No matter which one took office, they knew what was coming.
The ultimate fact is that any military confrontation with China will leave us at a disadvantage, first in the short term and possibly in the long term. It’s about time we started playing nice with the other kids on the playground.
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