Against the background of the constant possibility of being blackmailed by China, it is no wonder that the discovery of rare earths in Sweden is causing euphoria in the free world. The corona pandemic and Japan in 2010 showed dependence on China. That’s over now.
Chips play a decisive role in the system competition between the free world and the Beijing dictatorship. They are found in mobile phones, screens, medical devices and cars, among other things. They are also important for the defense industry. The US government therefore imposed sanctions in October last year, according to which chips intended for the People’s Republic may not be manufactured with machines that were produced in the USA. In this production, the United States, the Netherlands and Japan are leaders. Washington therefore hopes that these sanctions will allow the People’s Republic to develop its military more slowly and prepare it for combat.
Alexander Görlach is Honorary Professor of Ethics at Leuphana University in Lüneburg and Senior Fellow at the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs in New York. After stints in Taiwan and Hong Kong, he has focused on the rise of China and what it means for East Asian democracies in particular. From 2009 to 2015, Alexander Görlach was also the publisher and editor-in-chief of the debate magazine The European, which he founded. Today he is a columnist and author for various media. He lives in New York and Berlin.
A particular headache for the USA and its allies in Asia, the Philippines, Taiwan, South Korea and Japan, is that Beijing has been laying the foundations for an extensive annexation of this world sea and the independent sea for a few years, both through martial war announcements and through the militarization of the South China Sea Island Republic of Taiwan has laid.
More on the topic: Sensational discovery of rare earths in Sweden
So far, Beijing has had a decisive advantage in the race for the best weapons technology, because the rare earths that are essential for the production of chips are found in the ground under the People’s Republic. This gave the People’s Republic potential for blackmail against the rest of the world: if you stand in our way, we will block the sale of rare earths. Beijing has already put this threat into practice against Japan: when Tokyo took action against illegal fishing from the People’s Republic in its waters in 2010, the nomenklatura of the PC suspended the export of rare earths without further ado. This blockade lasted seven weeks. Then Tokyo had to back down and release the captain of the illegally fishing freighter.
Against the background of the constant possibility of being blackmailed, it is no wonder that the discovery of rare earths in Sweden is causing euphoria in the free world. Europe can now mine rare earths itself and use them to produce the chips that are essential for the digital age. This will not happen overnight, as European countries have not yet had their own experience of mining rare earths. In addition, the camps are located underground in remote regions. The interests of the residents must be considered in the promotion as well as the preservation of the ecosystems, which would certainly be affected by the promotion.
Experts suspect that the quantity of rare earths found would be sufficient to meet Europe’s future needs, including for electric vehicles and wind power plants. In fact, this colossal find justifies the plan to actually mine this amount. The corona pandemic with all its effects on global supply chains has also shown where a dependency on individual components that are supplied through international trade can lead. In October 2021, for example, the People’s Republic stopped the export of magnesium, which is essential for the German metal industry, because the high energy consumption required for the extraction of magnesium conflicted with the new climate targets that Beijing issued.
These goals are laudable, but they clash with the monopoly China has achieved in magnesium production (a little over 90 percent of global production). Should China, for political reasons or because of a new pandemic, stop or ban the export of rare earths as well as magnesium in the future, Europe would no longer be in a fix due to its own resources.
Even in a world without a system conflict with a militant and war-ready China, the news of the find in Sweden would be cause for celebration, because rare earths are the lifeblood of mankind, today and tomorrow. There can never be enough of that.