February 13, 2024
The United States faces deep, ongoing vulnerabilities in its mine...
Over the past few decades, through an intentional dominance of the global rare earth market, China has cultivated immense leverage over the United States. As the current trade war escalates, China is poised to capitalize on its strategic plan — and indeed recent brinkmanship via Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to a major rare earth processing facility suggests it may.
If China’s rare earth leverage over the U.S. is one part strategic foresight, it is two parts American strategic miscalculation and shortsightedness. Today’s U.S. defense-industrial base is reliant on a globally integrated supply chain. Over the last 20 years, an embrace of the “free market” has created a fragile network of supply for countless critical materials that are the backbone of many major defense systems.
A failure by the U.S. to take the long view of history — as has been taken by the Chinese for centuries — is manifesting itself in an uncomfortable realization that past industrial policy has left our military glaringly susceptible to supply chain disruption. As Chinese philosopher Sun Tzu wrote: “He will win who, prepared himself, waits to take the enemy unprepared.” Alarmingly, U.S. lack of preparation is now evident in the latest rare earth crisis, the second of the past decade.