Global competition for certain strategic resources is intensifying. In some cases, the gap between growing demand and available supply is growing inexorably, as we enter an era of increasing resource scarcity. The implications of this go far beyond private industries, extending to international relations, and severely testing a trade architecture designed for a resource-abundant world.

This brief focuses on China’s role in producing one set of strategic resources: rare earths, which are essential for a range of high-tech products. It looks at the increasingly bitter geopolitical narratives that have evolved as China has sought to cut production and exports of rare earths – minerals whose extraction comes with huge environmental costs.

The brief also examines the World Trade Organization’s role in these disputes, and whether the trade rules it enforces are simply too narrow to intervene meaningfully in questions where environmental, social and geopolitical questions are so interwoven.

Download the brief (PDF, 1.2MB)