The Battle for Supremacy: Unveiling the Role of Two Rare Metals in the US-China Chip War

Two rare metals that have been restricted for export by China are gallium and germanium. These metals are crucial for producing some types of semiconductors and electric vehicles, and China’s new regulations, imposed on grounds of national security, will require exporters to seek permission for the exports of some gallium and germanium compounds starting August 1, 2023.

Gallium is used in the production of integrated circuits, LEDs, and photovoltaic panels for solar panels, while germanium is used to make optical fibers and infrared camera lenses.

China controls 80% of global output of these materials, and the controls are seen as China’s second and much bigger countermeasure in the US-China tech war, after Beijing banned some domestic sectors from purchasing products from US memory chipmaker Micron in May. The controls are also likely a response to a potential US tightening of an AI chip ban.

Rare earth metals, which include gallium and germanium, are crucial for the manufacturing of most electronic devices, including semiconductors. Semiconductor manufacturing depends on substances known as rare earth metals, and these materials play an integral role in the manufacturing of most electronic devices.

The US and China have been engaged in a heated geopolitical rivalry in recent years that has seen the sides impose tit-for-tat measures on each other, including in the tech sector.

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