China, the source of high-tech products – for now

The June 2011 National Geographic Magazine (NGM) is sitting on my desk reminding me to write a post about THE SECRET (Chinese) INGREDIENTS OF (almost) EVERYTHING.

In fact, today, China supplies 97% of the world’s rare earth needs.

NGM’s Folger tells us, “Although China currently monopolizes rare earth mining, other countries have deposits too. China has 48 percent of the world’s reserves; the United States has 13 percent. Russia, Australia, and Canada have substantial deposits as well. Until the 1980s, the United States led the world in rare earth production …” Then China entered the competition and soon dominated the global market.

How important are these rare earth minerals to our modern high-tech world?

The U.S. military depends on these minerals for night vision goggles used in combat, and to help control Predator drones, and Tomahawk cruise missiles.

MRI medical scans need a rare earth mineral to work while hybrid cars would not exist without them and wind turbines used to generate an alternative source of energy requires hundreds of pounds of one rare earth element while compact fluorescent light bulbs use another rare earth to light up.  Even our smart phones, flat-screen televisions and sunglasses (to protect our eyes from UV light) use rare earths.

Folger reveals that there is currently a shortage of rare earths with global demand about 60,000 tons. However, China will only be exporting 24,000 tons this year, since its growing middle class demands the same high-tech toys that many Americans and Europeans take for granted.

To have a better idea of how this demand of rare earths will grow in China, the McKinsey Global Institute predicts China’s middle class will reach about 612 million Chinese by 2025 to become the world’s largest population of consumers. This will change ‘made in China‘ to ‘sold in China‘ possibly creating markets for luxury goods made in the USA.

Does this mean that soon Chinese may be complaining about US workers stealing jobs from China?

Meanwhile, other nations (such as the US) are rushing to develop rare earth metals until the US is capable of producing enough to supply the demand in America for high-tech gadgets.

Discover more from Keeping the Rare Earths in China


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story that Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

To subscribe to “iLook China”, look for the “Subscribe” button at the top of the screen in the menu bar, click on it then follow directions.

2 Responses to China, the source of high-tech products – for now

  1. Merlin says:

    China can be happy when they invade the DPRK. The Kims always run to hide behind big momma China. I always say, somebody needs to take it. The north has outdated weaponry and is like a small bug that protects a HUGE resource supply. If the US takes, we can turn around and sell the resources to the world to help fix the economy/debt poblem. If China takes, they get more resources to use for growing their country and climbing to the top of the world.

    • The people of the DPRK would be better off under Chinese rule than they are under the Kims. However, a better scenario would be if the two Koreas eventually merged and the north became a republic like the south with the southern lifestyle and political system prevailing. Since China and South Korea are big trade partners, the Chinese would win because they would no longer have to help feed and prop up the DPRK kingdom of Kim. If China did invade and take over the DPRK, then they would still have the headache of taking care of all those people and some of them would probably be insurgents resenting Chinese rule.

      Now, if China invaded North Korea, swept the DPRK and Kims away, and then went home and told the south to manage the north and fix it that would work too and the problem of the North Korean mad dog would be fixed.

      However, since the North is a nuclear power with long and short range missles, the Chinese would have to have a good plan to eliminate that nuclear threat quickly so those weapons couldn’t be turned on Beijing, Shanghai and other large Chinese cities, which are much closer targets than the United States.

Leave a Reply to Merlin Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: