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Chinese disinformation campaign targeted Trump-era rare earth initiative in Texas

Lynas rare earths mine: China produces about 80 percent of the rare earth elements that are imported into the United States.
FPI / July 7, 2022

China does not abide threats to its dominance in the production of rare earth minerals which are indispensable to many cutting-edge technological products.

So, when the Trump administration launched an initiative to build a rare earth facility in Texas, China’s propaganda machine moved swiftly to undermine it.

“China conducted a sophisticated disinformation campaign” in an effort to discredit Lynas Rare Earths Ltd., the Australia-based company that was tasked with building the Texas facility, security correspondent Bill Gertz noted in a June 29 report.

The cybersecurity company, Mandiant, disclosed China’s disinformation campaign on June 28.

The disinformation operation was disclosed after the publication of a Pentagon review of critical minerals and materials that revealed security vulnerabilities with foreign sources of critical minerals used in military and civilian goods, including the U.S. military’s reliance on rare earths in F-35 advanced jets and Virginia-class attack submarines.

A total of 920 pounds of rare earth minerals are used in each F-35 fighter jet produced, and Virginia-class submarines use 10 times that amount, according to a report in the online journal Foreign Policy.

The Pentagon during the Trump administration said the facility in Texas was part of a U.S. government strategy to produce secure and reliable sources of critical minerals under a 2017 executive order. That order said American reliance on foreign imports of critical materials is a “strategic vulnerability,” both to the military and the civilian economy.

Chinese supreme leader Xi Jinping vowed during a May 2019 visit to a rare earths mine in Jiangxi that he would not allow other nations to undermine China‘s lead in the critical minerals race.

Chinese Communist Party leaders have long seen dominance of the rare earths mineral supply as a major strategic goal. Deng Xiaoping noted in a 1992 speech, “The Middle East has its oil. China has rare earths.”

“China‘s rare earth deposits account for 80% of identified global reserves. You can compare the status of these reserves to that of oil in the Middle East. It is of extremely important strategic significance. We must be sure to handle the rare earth issue properly and make the fullest use of our country’s advantage in rare earth resources,” Deng said at the time.

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FPI, Free Press International
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