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Explained: The trillion dollar treasure that the Taliban controls and China wants

Aug 26, 2021 07:28 IST | By Editorji News Desk

Only hours after the Taliban overran Afghanistan, a Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman said Beijing was ready for "friendly cooperation" with Afghanistan.

What does China really want from Afghanistan?

The same thing the United States wanted in the early 90s, control of the material that will control the world trade. A few decades ago it was oil and now it’s rare earth materials.

A declassified U.S. Defense Department note of 2010 described Afghanistan as “the Saudi Arabia of lithium,” the basic ingredient in electric-vehicle batteries and core material to tackle the climate crisis.

Also watch: China: have established 'open, effective communication' with Taliban

Amount of rare earth metals in Afghanistan 

Minerals and rare earth metals in Afghanistan were estimated to be worth between $1 trillion and $3 trillion in 2020, according to a report in the news magazine The Diplomat.  A report by American news organization The Hill earlier this year put the value at about $3 trillion. 

Why rare-earth materials are so important?

Rare earths are used in everything from electronics to electric vehicles, and satellites and aircraft. Afghanistan has vast reserves of lithium in provinces such as Ghazni, Herat and Nimroz.

China led the world's lithium-ion battery supply chain market and tapping the Afghan mineral reserve would secure China as the controller and leader of the high-demand rare earth mineral market. About 35% of rare earth global reserves are in China, the most in the world, according to the United States Geological Survey. 

In 2019, the US imported 80 percent of its rare earth minerals from China, while the EU states got 98 percent of these materials from China.

In fact, China had held trade negotiations hostage in 2019 as it threatened to cut off supplies to the U.S. during the trade war.

With demand for rare earth metals especially expected to grow over 130% in the next decade it is clear that the commodity supercycle has displaced oil as it is superstar and location of focus now shifts to a new battleground of Afghanistan where it is now evident that China is staking claim where Uncle Sam already failed.

Explained: The trillion dollar treasure that the Taliban controls and China wants

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