China and its Rare Earths Dilemma – Part 2/2

In January 2011 (more than a year ago), Reuters reported, “China has said other countries should share the burden of mining the metals. Illegal mining practices and over-exporting rare earths have hurt China’s environment and depleted its resources.”

After the recent threat by President Obama and the West’s media coverage of China regarding rare earth metals, it appears that other countries do not want to share that burden even if they will not admit it.

As the following video points out, the US has the third largest reserves of rare earth elements. However, US companies, unable to compete and under fire from US regulators for sloppy environmental practices, shut down leaving it up to China to pollute its environment while supplying the world with rare-earth metals.

As you are discovering, this story of rare earth metals is more complex than what the media is reporting.  For example, in February, according to a recent 2012 Gallup poll, Iran was considered Americans greatest enemy with China earning second place.

In this pole, Gallop’s asked, “What one country anywhere in the world do you consider to be the United States’ greatest enemy today?”

The results: Iran earned 32% of the vote, and China had 23% for second place followed by North Korea with 10%. Afghanistan snagged fourth place with 7%.

Gallup says, “More Americans mention China as the United States’ greatest enemy (23%) this year than at any point in the 11-year history of the question, likely reflecting at least in part Americans’ concern over China’s global economic influence. Last year, China tied North Korea for second place, but mentions of North Korea have declined, leaving China alone in second place in 2012.”

If Gallup’s annual World Affairs poll, conducted February 2-5, mirrors public opinion in the US, then why does America depend so much on China to supply rare earths for its global high-tech war on terroism?

It isn’t as if America doesn’t have its own supply of rare earth metals — the US has an ample supply, but due to harsh environmental laws that deal with pollution, it is too expensive to mine and produce these rare earths in the US and cheaper to let China do it even if it does pollute China’s environment leading to criticism from the American media and Western bloggers that use computers and smart phones that would not exist without China’s rare earths. Do you see the irony and hypocrisy here?

Is China America’s new enemy?

If you doubt that America does have an ample supply of rare earths, then read this report released by the Natural Resources Committee – US Congress on November 17, 2010.

Once all the facts are known, it appears that the US federal government does not agree with the 72 million Americans that believe China is our second greatest enemy. In fact, America’s leaders may not see China as an enemy at all but prefer that many Americans continue to feel this way. The answer why may be found in the US  Department of Defense, which has the largest slice of the US federal Budget. According to US Government, the defense department’s slice of that pie is 24% or $ 901.4 billion US.

After all, without a boogieman to scare US citizens and give them nightmares that America has serious enemies, where is the justification to continue this massive defense spending, which may soon bankrupt America?

Return to China and its Rare Earth Dilemma – Part 1


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 Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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7 Responses to China and its Rare Earths Dilemma – Part 2/2

  1. wideblindeye says:

    I think it may be an error to paint China as too much of a victim here. Like most US / China relations, this is a symbiosis that falls into a “shade of grey” category on both sides. While it’s true that environmental policies in the US are too stringent for the mining of rare earths, it is also true that their having a virtual monopoly on the supply benefits China.

    As far as China’s environmental concerns go, if we’re frank, serious contamination of the air and land has been going on for at least a decade. China’s public is becoming increasingly concerned about it, as they become more informed on the true extent of the damage. So, while China may truly be attempting to clean things up, it can’t be ignored that this one, placates the citizens on the issue, and two, lessens the supply of materials that they control the market on, driving up prices and revenue streams.

    Even if the US President and Congress decided today that it would begin to tap into it’s rare earth resources, how long would it be before those resources reached the market? How long before mining even made it through the bureaucratic processes to begin? Just look at the Keystone pipeline project.

    • wideblindeye,

      “As far as China’s environmental concerns go, if we’re frank, serious contamination of the air and land has been going on for at least a decade.”

      More like three decades since China opened its doors to world trade in the early 1980s, and quickly became the factory floor for the world where the corporations of developed nations went with their dirty manufacturing methods so they could avoid the expensive strict clean air requirements in their home countries while gaining lower labor costs to be more competitive in a global market place. To modernize and devlop, China needed the money.

      However, when the prices for products started to go up recently because cheap labour costs are not so cheap anymore, will we blame China again. See “No More Cheap Labour in China” at for the story.

      “How long would it be before those resources reached the market? How long before mining even made it through the bureaucratic processes to begin?”

      According to the sources I used, the US has known for two or more years that China was planning to cut back production of rare earths… China did not keep it a secret. With a warning more than two years ago, one would think that the popularly elected politicians in both Houses of Congress and the man in the White House would have at least brought up the subject of starting production again and possibly even subsidizing the industry similar to subsidies for buying a hybrid car, and installing solar or wind power. Since these elements are vital to our national security at a time when we are waging wars around the world, one would think that would have been a serious consideration after China gave notice (more than two years ago) that it was going to do what it is now doing.

      Yes, China shares some of the blame for allowing the rare earths industry to pollute as much as it did, but so does America, Japan, Europe and every country where rare earths are found in products used for defense and for sale to the consumer such as flat screen TV’s, computers and cell phones. Even private industry shares some of the blame since private industry also heard China’s warnings back in 2009.

      However, greed turned a blind eye to the inevitable. China and other developing countries such as India cannot continue to be the garbage dump for the developed word.

      In addition, before China became the butt boy of environmental pollution criticism, Japan was the focus of this criticism from the West until the focus shifted to China. Since China is bigger with a much larger population and land mass, the pollution problems are much larger.

      You may want to read about Japan’s pollution problems, which started as early as 1878. Current Japanese environmental policy and regulations were the consequence of a number of environmental disasters in 1950s and 1960s. In the 1990s, Japan’s environmental legislation was further tightened. In 1993 the government reorganized the environment law system and legislated the Basic Environment Law and related laws. The law includes restriction of industrial emissions, restriction of products, restriction of wastes, improvement of energy conservation, promotion of recycling, restriction of land utilization, arrangement of environmental pollution control programs, relief of victims and provision for sanctions. The Environment Agency was promoted to full-fledged Ministry of the Environment in 2001, to deal with the deteriorating international environmental problems.

      Study the time line. Japan’s environmental pollution started in 1878 and it wasn’t until after the 1960s that it started to do something about it with more emphasis on pollution taking place in the 1990s. We are talking of a period of almost a century. China has only been seriously polluting its environment since the 1980s – 30 years.

      Taiwan also has environmental problems — Why don’t we hear more about Taiwan? Too small maybe? Or is it because Taiwan is protected by the US?

      And while I’m at it, take a look at South Korea’s Enviornmental issues at

      How about the UK, Europe and the US? How long did they pollute their environments due to industrialization before they woke up and started to legislate for a cleaner environment (while moving dirty manufacturing to countries such as Japan, China, India and Vietnam?

      The answers may be found in the beginning dates of the Industrial Revolution, which goes back to the 18th century and when the US started to manufacture catalytic convertors for cars (hint – that was in the 1970s–almost two hundred years later), yet the US hasn’t done much yet to clean up its dirty coal burning power plants while China has been systematically replacing all of its old coal burning power plants for years now with cleaner burning ones with the latest technology while subsidizing solar, tidal and wind power and building more hydroelectric dams than any other country in the world and is currently developing cleaner, safer nuclear power plants through different technologies that were not developed in the West due to the Cold War and a need for Weapons of Mass Destruction.

  2. Craig Hill says:

    Great article. This has been a topic I have been following for some time. I wrote a clip about it 18 months ago

    The information we had back then was that China was punishing Japan for firing on a Chinese fishing boat. The latest information seems more credible. 🙂

    • Craig,

      I went looking for a quote that might fit why the media and Western/American politicans are painting China as the bad guy regarding rare earths and found quite a few. Here are some of them.

      “The trouble with this country is that there are too many politicans who believe, with a conviction based on epxerience, that you can fool all of the people all of the time.” – Franklin P. Adams

      “Politics, as a practice, whatever its professions, has always been the systematic organization of hatreds.” – Henry Brooks Adams.

      “The saddest life is that of a political aspirant under democracy. His failure is ignominious and his success is disgraceful.” – Mary Cahterine Bateson

      “A politician is a person who can make waves and then mak eyou think he’s the only one who can save the ship.” -Ivern Ball

  3. merlin says:

    The stats from Gallups Poll is comic.

    Afghanistan is a lawless nation with multiple ethnic groups struggling for power. Yet it’s not a threat to America?

    DPRK created a nuclear bomb and there were questions about cooperation with Iran, but it’s not a threat because Kim died?

    So our enemy is the country that clothes us, is the political medium between DPRK and US, is the country that “allows” us to play with our technological toys, and has a massive defense budget with a standing army double or triple the size of our own.

    I’m sorry, but where does common sense fit into this? If a big guy on the playground does your homework like a friend and carries a gun for protection, would you hurl insults and threaten to attack him with a stick? If you do, nobody on the playground would ever trust you again for beating your own bodyguard.

    • Don’t shoot the messenger, which is Gallup in this case.

      All the Gallup Poll does is reflect the opinions of a segment of the American population, which is supposed to show the nation’s opinion give or take a few points for errors (it’s been pretty accurate most of the time), and most of those opinions are influenced by the American/Western media, American politicians running for election and talk show hosts such as Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh, who calls a college student a whore because she feels women should have the right to choose what they do with their bodies.

      All this poll proves is that America’s Founding Fathers were right about not letting most of the American people have the right to vote, because most people think with emotions influenced by opinions and not facts/logic.

      Hitler knew what he was talking about when he said if you tell a lie enough, it will become the truth that people believe. Those aren’t his exact words but the context is there. And when President Reagan vetoed the Fairness Doctrine, which required the media to offer equal time to both sides of an issue, he opened the door to lies influencing mobs of uneducated people that allow themselves to be ruled and guided by emotion leading to this mess that George Washington warned America about in his farewell letter after he left the White House.

      In fact, after President Reagan killed the Fairness Doctrine, conservative talk radio became a media giant with people like Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Dennis Prager, etc. being paid hundreds of millions of dollars to lie and mislead the public with his opinions. Imagine, this is a job where one gets rich manipulating the facts/truth to influence opinions and votes of the American public leading to most Americans believing China is our #2 enemy.

    • Merlin,

      Do you mean China by this quote? “and (China) has a massive defense budget with a standing army double or triple the size of our own.”

      The US is ranked number 1 as the strongest military in the world. China is ranked number 3. Russia is ranked #2.

      The active US military is 1,477,896 and the active reserve is 1,458,500 and the US defense budget is about $700 billion. Total military aircraft is more than 18,000 and the US has eleven aircraft carriers in its navy, which has 2,384 navy ships. China’s navy only has 972 ships.

      China has an active military of 2,285,000 and an active reserve of 800,000. That means China’s total trained military is 3,085,000 compared to the US total of 2,936,396. China only has about 148 thousand more troops than the US but China uses hundreds of thousands of its troops to build and repair roads, railroads and the be sent to natural disasters to help out when there are floods and earthquakes. Those troops, which are more of an emergency reaction force for natural disasters, were not trained anywhere near the level of training all US troops go through for combat. In fact, most US troops are hardened veterans of foreign wars such as the wars in Iran and Afghanistan. In comparison, Chinese troops are not battle hardened.

      In addition, China only has 5,176 military aircraft and one twenty-two year old used aircraft carrier bought from Russia. China’s defense budget is $100 billion – a seventh of the US defense budget.


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