President Xi Jinping pinpointed a source of leverage his government has over high-technology industries critical to the U.S. economy, touring a region of China that calls itself a rare-earths kingdom with his top trade negotiator.
Xi’s visit this week to one of the world’s largest suppliers of rare earths — natural elements used for wind turbines, electric cars and jet fighters — is a reminder of the world’s dependence on China for their production.
“It sends the message: ‘Keep in mind we have the ability to affect the production of many major products in the United States,’” said Anthony Marchese, chairman of Texas Mineral Resources Corp, which hopes to produce rare earth elements near El Paso. “To the people who follow the industry, to the Trump administration, they see the symbolism,” he said.
China’s state media said Xi’s trip to the southern province of Jiangxi provided an opportunity to learn about the rare-earths industry. Other comments were more pointed: One headline on an article circulated on social media referred to Jiangxi’s rare earths as a “trade trump card.”