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During a maritime border dispute in September 2010, Japan detained the captain of a Chinese fishing trawler, which had collided with two Japanese coast guard vessels. China responded by announcing that it would halt all shipments of rare earth elements to Japan, which used the imported metals in several high-tech industries—notably, magnets that Japan sold abroad or used for making consumer products, such as the Toyota Prius.
Japan immediately released the Chinese fishing captain. The New York Times declared that it was a "humiliating retreat" for Tokyo.
What the Chinese government says and what Chinese companies do are often two different things. Chinese producers found various loopholes to evade the embargo on Japan. For instance, they were able to export REE that were combined with small amounts of other alloys. And smuggling in China is rampant, with small mining companies, sometimes assisted by crime networks, illegally exporting as much as 20,000 to 30,000 tons of REE per year. The central government in Beijing, beset with other pressing issues, has not made a concerted effort to crack down on this problem.
Compare that with the fact that only a small amount of REE are required for consumer products—roughly a kilogram of neodymium for each Toyota Prius and a few grams in each cell phone. It would take a long time for an embargo to have an effect, especially when a hefty amount of rare earths are still being exported.
So this economic weapon has been neutralized for now, but what happens if China tries something similar with us? Would we go to war over REE?
originally posted by: tavi45
a reply to: RockerDom
Not to mention we are discovering them in other places like north korea and Afghanistan.