Over the past three years, it has become much more obvious that the US and China are in a long-term battle for dominance, particularly in southeast Asia but also globally. More recently, this has manifested itself in a battle for dominance over technological innovation and therefore resource security, particularly rare earth metals such as antimony, magnesium, tantalum and tungsten, to name a few.
The importance of rare earths and other minerals vital for technology cannot be understated. They are a fundamental component for the manufacturing of wind turbines, capacitors, computers, batteries, healthcare equipment – almost anything hi-tech that we rely upon in today’s society. Commodities such as copper, nickel, lithium and cobalt are particularly important for the development of domestic battery manufacturing capability and thus for national car industries.
For the past decade at least, China has been razor-focused on creating a strategic supply chain of raw materials from Australia, South America and particularly Africa to supply its economy. China is particularly focused upon developing a global position in rare earths (where it is also blessed with significant domestic deposits) and one of their major products, magnets, which are used in batteries but also in many military applications ranging from night goggles to guidance systems for missiles.
The One Belt, One Road initiative, which extends Chinese influence around the globe by offering loans for infrastructure projects, is the international reflection of this push. In some areas such as electric vehicles and batteries, China is ahead of the US and one should also expect its military prowess to grow in the coming years.