The NYT is reporting that China is limiting the export of “rare earth” minerals to the US and Europe (and Canada too I’d assume). China did the same thing to Japan a few weeks ago. This is alleged to be a response to threats of tariffs on imported goods made in China.
This is a parenting moment. This is the time when the 16 yo steals the keys, goes for a ride, and puts a nice dent in the front fender. Time to count to ten, and repeat ten times. Then remember what is a stake, and what the long game is.
If you were a reasonably mature and sane nation in 2003, such as Norway, you’d look at 2003 America and draw some conclusions. You’d decide that America was in much worse emotional shape than you’d thought in the Clinton years. You might guess that America had an unsuspected substance problem. The best response would be calm engagement, while also making wise preparations for American derailment.
That’s what we should be thinking about China. China is a critical component of world civilization, and, if this story is accurate, she’s in much worse emotional shape than we thought. We thought she was a smart but rowdy striver, but now we learn she’s snorting meth. This is a problem for China, and for the family of nations. We’re all in this together.
In the meanwhile there are obvious things to do. We have a strategic petroleum reserve. We will tax all rare earth import and production (not just China’s) to build a rare earth strategic reserve. All nations will do the same thing. That will give time for nations like Canada, Australia and throughout Africa to increase production.
More importantly, we need to think differently about China, just as all nations had to think differently about the US after 2003. The world needs a healthy, stable, rational China. We’re going to have to do a lot of counting to 10, even as China works through her own issues, and even as we prepare for the worst.
Maybe the US and China can join a rehab program together.