The US Army planned to help rare earth companies to build processing plants in the US, according to reports by Reuters. The importance of rare earth products to modern weapons and equipment is well known, but it is very unusual for the military to directly invest in the development of the country's rare earth industry.
The US Army's proposal is, first and foremost, the result of an exaggerated risk assessment of the rare earth supply chain by the Pentagon.
A report, named Assessing and Strengthening the Manufacturing and Defense Industrial Base and Supply Chain Resiliency of the United States, released by the Pentagon in early October last year stated that the supply chain of more than 280 products in the US defense industry is heavily dependent on foreign countries. From a substantive perspective, the US manufacturing and defense industries rely more on their Western allies, and China's proportion is not prominent. However, the report specifically emphasized that China posed significant and growing risks to the supply of materials and technologies that are strategic and critical to US national security.The report magnified the dangers of China's countermeasures, linking them to the risks of the US’ rare earth supply chain.
The US Army's proposal has to do with the Isolationist economic policy orientation of the White House.
For the economic policy of current US government, rebuilding the supply chain of rare earth resources should be part of a policy to force the return of manufacturing to make America "great again". It is called a strong push because the US has to try its best. The pattern of US industry relying on the global supply chain has long been formed with the globalized international division of labor. This division of labor also reflects the US's superior position in the high-end of the industrial and value chains.
The current external dependence to a certain extent, including dependence on China's rare earth, is the active choice of the US to consider the interests and optimize its industry. When the US government enforces the return of manufacturing and insists on strengthening domestic physical industry, the rare earth industry that can be pointed as "Chinese chain-breaking risk" becomes an appropriate choice. However, the efforts going against the globalization of labor are bound to be fruitless.
The US Army's move to fund production and make up for the lack of the industrial chain also has to do with the military's own motivations.
This may be related to the strategic assumption of military containment of opponents, potentially posing a great strategic danger to world and regional peace. The Pentagon is willing to and has the financial resources to maintain the most adequate support for military strategy, ensuring that a large-scale offensive can be launched as the White House deems it necessary.
Nowadays, the political and social atmosphere in the US represses peaceful rationality everywhere, wantonly renders threats from other countries, constantly concentrates resources and imagination to encourage populism, drives contradictions to the outside world, and blames other countries for its own problems and difficulties. It is in this atmosphere that the US military began to fund the "project" of the rare earth industry chain.
The financial support by the Pentagon to the industry is said to be the first time that the US military invests in the commercial production of rare earth since the "Manhattan Project", which developed the atomic bomb in World War II.The difference is that the historical "Manhattan Project" aimed at the actual threat of fascist militarism, and as a result, made America, the leader of the anti-fascist alliance, unprecedentedly great. This time, the US aims at "emerging industrial nations" that insist on peaceful development, opening to the outside world, and maintaining free trade. However, the US itself fell into the mire of threats and spreading war.
(The author is a professor with the PLA National Defense University)
Disclaimer: This article is originally published on globaltimes.cn, and is translated from Chinese into English and edited by the China Military Online. The information, ideas or opinions appearing in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of eng.chinamil.com.cn.