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The speculation about China’s payback first surfaced when Chinese President Xi Jinping visited rare earth mining and processing facilities in Jiangxi province during a domestic tour last week. A Chinese official warned Tuesday that products made from the materials should not be used against China’s development, which was seen as a veiled threat aimed at the U.S. and its technology industry.
China’s rare earth materials are crucial to the production of iPhones, electric vehicles and advanced precision weapons, although the imports are a relatively small part of the $420 billion U.S. goods deficit with China.
The Chinese tabloid Global Times also said Tuesday that China can play the “rare earths card” and that it’s “seriously considering” the move.
The stock market took a big hit amid the tit-for-tat strategies between the U.S. and China, with stocks poised to post their first negative month of the year. The S&P 500 has lost nearly 6% this month.
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