Politics, markets, and rare commodities: responses to Chinese rare earth policy

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Authors Kristin Vekasi
Paper Category
Paper Abstract This paper examines economic statecraft in the case of rare-earth elements, of which China controls over 90% of the world's current supply, and famously cut off exports to Japan during a territorial dispute in 2010. The rare-earth sanctions provide an opportunity to investigate claims of economic statecraft, power and interdependence, and the political implications of near-monopoly control of a resource critical for high-tech military, consumer, medical, and environmental industries. A vector error correction model statistically disentangles the effects of China's economic statecraft from their rare-earth quota and pricing policies. Prior to the sanctions, there was little international supply diversification. China's purported use of rare-earth elements was an economically costly diplomatic signal that demonstrated their potential leverage, but also had unintended consequences, as Japan moved to diversify rare-earth supplies and in doing so deepened diplomatic ties with China's neighbors. Economic statecraft served to heighten regional tensions and undermine the China's own end goals.
Date of publication 2019
Code Programming Language R

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