The fire that secretly ignited in the courtyard of the Chinese consulate in Houston highlights a new stage of conflict between the United States and China, as US authorities closed the Chinese consulate last week, saying it was a center of espionage and theft of intellectual property. Prior to the evacuation of the headquarters, Chinese officials were quick to burn the guides.
Writer Roger Boyz says in a report in the British newspaper "The Times", the reason explaining Washington's closure of the Chinese consulate in Houston and not others is the project that Americans are working on east of El Paso, Texas, where scientists and engineers are developing ways to break the policy that approaches China’s monopoly in the exploration of rare precious metals.
These minerals acquire great importance to take the lead in the information age. They are used in the manufacture of smart phones, electric vehicles, military industries, and others. The control of important minerals (oil and gold) has long been the basis of empires.
China provided 80% of the US needs for rare metals between 2014 and 2017, while accounting for 85% of the global capacity to address them.
It may take years to reach the same capacity as China to process these minerals or compete with their low prices, and this makes the threat of President Donald Trump's administration to separate from the Chinese economy just nonsense, according to the author.
The writer states that Western leaders have long complained that China seeks to play a global role without fully understanding its global responsibilities. But they do not realize that Chinese President Xi Jinping sees global interdependence as an ability to extend his global authority by threatening weak governments and ambitious foreign companies.
When the United States agreed to sell weapons to Taiwan, the Chinese press speculated that Beijing would cut off supplies to the United States that were crucial to the production of advanced weapons, including precious metals.
Against this background, the Chinese president visited a rare mineral magnet plant in Jiangxi Province. This visit is intended to be that whatever the United States tries to establish alternative supply chains, it is still lagging behind China.
The writer believes that the policy of the President of China is mainly to involve his country in any field. The "Belt and Road" initiative is China's strategy to build a wall against the hostile West. In fact, this initiative is based on the principle of shield and sword.
Defensively, China is aware of its vulnerability to the blockade from the sea. It imports about 80% of its oil across the Indian Ocean and the Strait of Malacca across the South China Sea, and provides belt and road diplomacy, money and credit to create land routes for China to build deep water ports.
From the offensive side, in the framework of this initiative, artificial islands with airstrips are being established in the South China Sea, building a naval force and signing strategic mineral exploration contracts in the rich countries.
In this regard, China has developed an Afghan policy of iron, copper and cobalt reserves in this country, especially lithium. For a period of time, China has been describing Afghanistan as a "lithium kingdom", ignoring clear security risks, tribal politics, the Taliban and the fragility of infrastructure.
The author pointed out that lithium, cobalt and graphite are among the main components of the lithium ion battery, which are among the keys to the upcoming transportation revolution, and it seems that China is acting accordingly.
Chile has one of the world's largest known reserves of these rare minerals, at 8.6 metric tons. Therefore, a Chinese company bought a 23% stake in a Chilean-based group.
Besides competition for Bolivia's lithium stocks, competition between the United States and China has been fierce for coltan mines in the Democratic Republic of the Congo; It is used in the manufacture of tantalum, which is a hardening mineral vital in the manufacture of American warheads.
Since the exploration of tantalum is carried out in dire conditions, it is based on child labor, and warlords benefit from it, and it is sold legally to the United States, companies must go through a difficult process to track the metal from its extraction to smelting, but China does not have such concerns, it is Coltan buys and takes it to China for melting, according to the author.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo uses Rwandan tantalum, when it sells its domestic production to the United States. This means that if the rift with the Trump administration intensifies, it may end up refusing to sell this "clean" tantalum to the United States.
South Africa has also become a major concern of China, as it accounts for 80% of global platinum production. Stricter environmental regulations are expected to increase the use of platinum catalysts in the automotive industry; So Chinese demand for this mineral is likely to grow by 14% this year.
According to the report’s author, loosening China’s hold on the world's most sensitive supply chains has become very complex, and China may not yet have the military ability to wage a long-term war against the United States, but it can - by tightening its grip on strategic supply chains - pressure on it. , And the more sophisticated the weapons, the more they depend on scarce mining resources and vital minerals.
The first lesson that can be learned from Chinese behavior is that the US government - specifically the Pentagon - should play a bigger role in financing the full production cycle of rare metals. Perhaps the most effective way to confront the Chinese monopoly is to form alliances with countries of similar orientation, and there is a sign of that in talking about forming an alliance between India and the Pacific countries committed to freedom of navigation on major sea routes.
The second approach - which may be complementary - is to expand the intelligence-sharing alliance known as "The Five Eyes," and Japanese Defense Minister Taro Kono announced last week that his country could become the sixth member after the United States, Britain, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.