It generates many of the raw materials necessary for the global technology production
China not only has significant reserves of mineral resources, but also leads the world production of many of them. This gives it a remarkable geopolitical leverage as a source of the essential resources for global technology production.
▲Satellite imagery [NASA]
ARTICLE / Gabriel Ros Casis [Spanish version]
With a vast amount of territory as the Asian country has, it is obvious to think that it is a land with plenty of raw material and natural resources. Through China’s history, this has become a strong geopolitical asset, not only for the country’s development itself but for his trading partners through exports. Nowadays, when talking about these raw materials, China stands out in two main groups: base metals and technology elements.
The group of base materials essentially comprises five metals from the periodic table, being these iron, copper, aluminum, magnesium and zinc (and sometimes, lead and tin are also included). No need to say that most we can find all these metals in everyday-life objects, and that they have been the backbone of the industry for many time. Therefore, every country needs them, placing countries with bigger deposits of these metals on a strategic advantage. But the mineral wealth of a country doesn’t always relate to the later since it can also be measured by the ease and viability of the extraction of the product. In the case of China, both statements would be suitable since the country has the world’s biggest deposits of many of these minerals, leading with magnesium, (79% of global extractions), tin (43%) and zinc (31%).
Regarding the technology metals, it is important to note that they include several minerals such as rare earth elements, precious metals as well as semiconductors. Quantitatively speaking, the amount of these metals needed is minimal, even though their availability is crucial to produce today’s technology. For instance, some of the most common technology metals include some such as lithium, yttrium, palladium, cerium and neodymium, which can be found in smartphone batteries, medicines, magnets or catalysts. Once again China leads with the biggest deposits of some of these elements, highlighting tungsten deposits (83%), rare earths (78%) and molybdenum (38%).
As it can be drawn from this, not only has China the largest deposits on these materials but also it is the world’s number one exporter. Apart from the extraction, the country also refines and manufactures components with minerals such as the aluminum, copper and certain rare earths and in some cases even manufacturing the final product.
Hence, it must be taken into account that the extraction carries several consequences. Environmentally, the extraction always has an impact on the land, maybe minor in China if compared with other countries (because of its massive extension), but still significant. Economically, these extractions entail a big cost, but if managed properly, they can generate a huge revenue. In the political scenario, they are seen as an important geopolitical advantage by making other countries dependent on the supplies.
As a conclusion, it can be drawn from this that China has a great power when it comes to raw material resources, but this comes with a great liability since a substantial part of the commodities used for almost all global technology production depends on this country, which provides the resources but also manufactures them.