When the chips are down: China threatens to cut supply on rare minerals
China has just announced controls on exports of rare minerals - gallium and germanium - whose production it dominates and which are essential for the manufacture of electronic components.
News junkies can be forgiven for not having heard of gallium and germanium until now. That's all about to change. If our growing general knowledge of the periodic table seemed timed with the visit to Beijing of the US Treasury Secretary, that's because China is announcing controls on exports of key rare minerals that only it produces; minerals essential for microchips as well as electric vehicles and fibre-optic cables.
And after the recent ban on US memory chip maker Micron, the Chinese are fuming over last week's decision by the Netherlands to tighten rules on the export of its ASML chip-making machines, with the Dutch invoking national security reasons. Can the West have it both ways: trade with a nation that's more than ever the planet's factory and tackle the reshoring of key industries in this age of digital transformation, upheaval and scaled-up superpower tensions?
It's not just China flexing its muscle. The Wall Street Journal reports that just as the Biden administration dispatches Yellen to Beijing to play good cop, it's also working on ways to restrict China's access to cloud computing. Is it all hard bargaining and a bit of bluff, or the end of trade and the global order as we've known it over the past three decades?
- Mathilde VELLIET, Research Fellow, Geopolitics of Technology, Institut français des relations internationales
- Zhaohan SHEN, Military Security Analyst
- Jean-François HUCHET, Professor of Economics, Rector of Inalco
- André LOESEKRUG-PIETRI, President, Joint European Disruptive Initiative
Watch The Debate on France 24.