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China Dominates the Supply of U.S. Critical Minerals List

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See this visualization first on the Voronoi app.

<A bar chart showing China’s share of U.S. imports on the country's critical minerals list.

China Dominates the Supply of U.S. Critical Minerals List

This was originally posted on our Voronoi app. Download the app for free on iOS or Android and discover incredible data-driven charts from a variety of trusted sources.

Most countries have, for many decades, kept a record of their own critical minerals list.

For example, the U.S., drew up a list of “war minerals” during World War I, containing important minerals which could not be found and produced in abundance domestically. They included: tin, nickel, platinum, nitrates and potash.

Since then, as the economy has grown and innovated, critical mineral lists have expanded considerably. The Energy Act of 2020 defines a critical mineral as:

“A non-fuel mineral or mineral material essential to the economic or national security of the U.S., whose supply chains are vulnerable to disruption.” — Energy Act, 2020.

Currently there are 50 entries on this list and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) estimates that China is the leading producer for 30 of them. From USGS data, we visualize China’s share of U.S. imports for 10 critical minerals.

What Key Critical Minerals Does the U.S. Import From China?

The U.S. is 100% import-reliant for its supply of yttrium, with China responsible for 94% of U.S. imports of the metal from 2018 to 2021.

A soft silvery metal, yttrium is used as an additive for alloys, making microwave filters for radars, and as a catalyst in ethylene polymerization—a key process in making certain kinds of plastic.

China is a major supplier of the following listed critical minerals to the U.S.

Critical MineralChina's Share
of U.S. Imports
U.S. Imports (Tonnes)Uses
Yttrium94%1,000Catalyst, Microwave filters
Rare Earths74%11,940Smartphones, Cameras
Bismuth65%2,800Metallurgy
Antimony63%25,590Batteries
Arsenic57%5,400Semiconductors
Germanium54%29,000Chips, Fiber optics
Gallium53%12,000Chips, Fiber optics
Barite38%2,300Hydrocarbon production
Graphite (natural)33%82,000Batteries, Lubricants
Tungsten29%14,000Metallurgy

Note: China’s share of U.S. critical minerals imports is based on average imports from 2018 to 2021.

Meanwhile, the U.S. also imports nearly three-quarters of its rare earth compounds and metals demand from China. Rare earth elements—so called since they are not found in easily-mined, concentrated clusters—are a collection of 15 elements on the periodic table, known as the lanthanide series.

ℹ️ Yttrium and scandium exhibit similar rare-earth properties, and are found in the same ore bodies. They are often grouped together with the lanthanide series.

Rare earths are used in smartphones, cameras, hard disks, and LEDs but also, crucially, in the clean energy and defense industries.

Does China’s Dominance of U.S. Critical Minerals Supply Matter?

The USGS estimates that China could potentially disrupt the global rare earth oxide supply by cutting off 40–50% production, impacting suppliers of advanced components used in U.S. defense systems.

A version of this sort of trade warfare is already playing out. Earlier this year, China implemented export controls on germanium and gallium. The U.S. relies on China for around 54% of its demand for both minerals, used for producing chips, solar panels, and fiber optics.

China’s controls were seen as a retaliation against the U.S. which has restricted the supply of chips, chip design software, and lithography machines to Chinese companies.

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China’s Real Estate Crisis, Shown in Two Charts

These charts show China’s real estate boom in the 21st century and the subsequent slowdown since 2022.

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Charts of China's real estate market slowdown.

Visualizing China’s Real Estate Boom and Crisis

This was originally posted on our Voronoi app. Download the app for free on iOS or Android and discover incredible data-driven charts from a variety of trusted sources.

Evergrande—once China’s largest real estate developer—was forced to liquidate on January 28th. It was yet another strike against the country’s now fledgling real estate market, adding to a growing list of China’s economic worries.

In the charts above we show two annual metrics related to China’s real estate crisis from 2003 to 2023. The first looks at apartment and commercial property sales using Burreau of Statistics data from Bloomberg, and the second examines new housing starts using data from the World Bank.

Things to Know About China’s Property Slump

Property sales by value in China climbed pretty steadily from less than ¥1 trillion RMB in 2003 to over ¥15 trillion in 2021, but have since dropped to under ¥12 trillion in 2023.

This was the case across both residential and commercial sales. In China’s residential market specifically, new home sales dropped 6% in 2023, with secondhand home prices declining in major cities.

And on the development side, new residential developments have fallen 58% from 1,515 million m² in 2019 to 637 million m² in 2023.

YearNew Residential Building Developments
(million sq meters)
2023637.4
2022817.3
20211,350.2
20201,473.4
20191,514.5
20181,385.4
20171,160.9
20161,047.8
2015970.8
20141,146.4
20131,318.5
20121,199.1
20111,349.4
20101,147.2
2009784.9
2008695.4
2007662.3
2006531.8
2005446.5
2004390.0
2003352.4
2002276.5

Here are a few more things to know about the ongoing real estate crisis in China:

  • Developer Defaults: Real estate firms faced $125 billion in bond defaults between 2020 and 2023.
  • Economic Impact: The property sector’s slump has dragged down China’s economy, leading to layoffs and financial instability.
  • Getting Creative: Municipalities, many of which rely on land sales as a key source of income, have been introducing “old-for-new” support measures meant to stimulate new home purchases.

Experts predict a prolonged downturn, with many people souring on Chinese investments, but exactly how things will develop after Evergrande’s collapse is unclear.

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