Rare Metals, Global Power and National Security

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Rare Metals, Global Power and National Security
Rare Metals, Global Power and National Security (source: Les Échos; click on map for large version)

It is often assumed that maps are useful for the information they provide and the answers they give. A good look at them, however, could also result in valuable questions for governments and companies.

Take for example this fabulous map (from French business newspaper Les Échos). It highlights China’s enormous share in global rare metals reserves. The map further shows the stages in the production process of rare metals in various countries (e.g. exploration, feasabilily study, exploitation).

A key geopolitical question in this regard is the impact of this territorial distribution of rare metals on the global power position of the countries with(out) rare metals. Before this issue can be addressed, one needs a clear definition of national power. For example, in which ways could China use its large rare metals reserves to influence other countries? In other words, how far would (i.e. willingness) / could (i.e. ability) the country go in particular scenarios?

And what are the best ways for countries with little or no rare metals reserves to anticipate such scenarios? This last question stresses the importance of knowing what role rare metals play in national security. Such knowledge in turn requires a good understanding of how each individual country defines its security. This is not only a matter of material factors, but also of non-tangible factors such as norms and values.

Rare Metals

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