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New Study highlighted the intensifying United States (US)-China Rare Earth Interdependence can De-risk Global Sustianble Development

Rare earths (REs) are at the frontline of the US-China trade disputes and other geopolitical tensions. These minerals are crucial for a climate-safe future and have been predominantly supplied by China over the past few decades. Consequently, the present policies from the United States (US) and some other nations perceive trade dependence on REs from China as a potential risk to their “national security”. In this context, improving the understanding of REs trade interdependence among nations is crucial for policy decisions in mitigating the risk of international conflicts.
A recent study, published in One Earth, sheds light on intensifying cooperative interactions between the US and China within global rare earth supply chains. The study was conducted by an international research team from the Institute of Urban Environment of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Northeastern University from the United States, Delft University of Technology from Netherlands. Through the material flow analysis of RE flows, they provide a first global map of annual REs flows from ores to metals during the period 2000-2022 across the US, China, and other nations. More importantly, they meticulously examined all trade flows of the supply chain from different regions, with a specific focus on estimating unregistered flows by comparing dispersive data from various sources on RE mining, refinery, and demand.
The researchers uncovered a notable increase in the export of rare earth minerals from the US to China, with China emerging as the primary refinery center for the US. They further highlighted that this intensifying interdependence is beneficial for all participating nations at both supply and demand sides. This finding serves as a successful example of broader cooperation for the sustainable use of critical minerals that are essential for green and clean technologies.
The earth trade interpdendence traigangle in 2022 calls for collaborative actions for global sustainable development.

(Image by WANG Peng).


Contacts: WANG Peng

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