Chapter 11. A Rare Opportunity

In 1992, Deng Xiaoping, the man who led China into its free-market reforms, made a rather arcane statement: “There is oil in the Middle East; there are rare earths in China.” While only some observers might have understood the implications of this proclamation a few decades ago, chances are that nearly everyone will come to view Deng’s words as prophecy in time.

To begin, a reasonable question may be, What is rare earth? Depending on your perspective, rare earth could refer to a rock band that had a few Top 40 hits for Motown in the early 1970s, or a set of elements clustered on the periodic table that you probably studied in high school chemistry. Not to take anything away from the band, but this chapter focuses ...

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