The dirty truth about China's rare earth threat

Chinese President Xi Jinping visiting a rare earth processing facility in Ganzhou, Jiangxi province, last month. Also present was Vice-Premier Liu He (in the background, wearing black). Many see the visit as a signal that if Washington does not back
Chinese President Xi Jinping visiting a rare earth processing facility in Ganzhou, Jiangxi province, last month. Also present was Vice-Premier Liu He (in the background, wearing black). Many see the visit as a signal that if Washington does not back down in the trade war, China will suspend exports of rare earths to the US. PHOTO: XINHUA
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Hit by US tariffs and the blacklisting of Chinese telecoms equipment supplier Huawei, Beijing recently found a way to send a threatening trade message - with a visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping to a rare earth processing plant.

An editorial in the official People's Daily newspaper on the subject warned: "Don't underestimate China's ability to strike back." The newspaper even used a phrase - translated as "don't say we didn't warn you" - previously employed just before border wars with India and Vietnam.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 03, 2019, with the headline The dirty truth about China's rare earth threat. Subscribe