Noam Chomsky Warns China Is Gaining a 'Near Monopoly' Over Rare Earth Metals
The historian believes China could be amassing most of the world's rare earth materials and could pressure other countries with a near monopoly.
“If China gains a near-monopoly over rare earths, they will be in a powerful position to influence choices and policies of other states, if they choose to,” the foreign-policy historian told Entrepreneur. “From China’s point of view, it certainly makes sense to try to gain as much control as they can of rare strategic minerals, enhancing their near monopoly over rare earths.”
Rare earth metals are used to build advanced military weapons like fighter jets and laser parts. China currently accounts for 80% of rare earth imports, according to the U.S. Geological survey.
In 2020, the Department of Defense provided a $9.6 million grant to MP Materials, a public company that owns the Mountain Pass mine and processing facility in California. Shenghe Resources, a Chinese state-controlled entity, possesses an 8% shareholder stake in the company.
The DoD funding came after then-president Donald Trump issued an executive order to “reduce the nation’s vulnerability to disruptions in the supply of critical minerals.” Trump cited dependency on China in the EO, declaring it a “national emergency.”
Chomsky described private American businesses like MP Materials courting China-influenced companies as “normal capitalist logic,” adding that Trump “apparently didn’t care about the Department of Defense’s support for China.”
“U.S. government support for Chinese efforts is slight in scale and indirect, though [there is] support for U.S. businesses in which the major Chinese rare earth producer has a share,” Chomsky continued. “The fact that it takes place indicates that U.S. planners seem not to have accorded high priority to these issues.”
Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that MP Materials was partially owned by Shenghe Resources. We regret the error.