TES GeoPolicy Editor Dan McGroarty
The U.S. had plenty of warning about China’s dominant position in the production of rare earths, elements key to the manufacturing of smartphones, and a wide range of defense technologies – not that anyone paid attention. This week TES GeoPolicy Editor Dan McGroarty was featured for the second time on “60 Minutes,” explaining the history of China’s long-term strategy to monopolize rare earths, dating back decades and predating many of the technologies they later enabled. McGroarty first appeared on the program, discussing these very issues, in 2015.
- China currently accounts for 95% of production of rare earths, reflecting a multi-decade plan to corner the market in these critical minerals.
- McGroarty, a former White House special assistant to President George H.W. Bush who has also testified before Congress on natural resources and national security, ticks off defense technologies that require rare earths, including everything from guidance on cruise missiles, smart bombs, and lasers.
- McGroarty also points out the lack of constraints that allowed China to dominate rare earths, including lower labor costs and total disregard of environmental concerns.
- In 1982 Deng Xiaoping supposedly said: “The Middle East has oil, China has rare earths.” Chinese rare earth production surpassed America’s not long after.
- Now, as President Trump threatens to further escalate a trade war with China, McGroarty believes that Chinese domination of rare earths poses a grave threat to national security.
- In 2010 China cut off Japanese access to rare earths for 40 days in response to a maritime incident, indicating it is willing to use control of rare earths for strategic leverage – which in turn increases the risk of confrontation with the U.S.