China’s recent restrictions on the export of gallium and germanium, essential metals for semiconductor manufacturing, have prompted concerns and discussions about the need to diversify supply chains away from China.
These curbs could potentially inspire countries to gradually establish alternative production sources, reducing their dependence on China. As China controls a significant percentage of global production for rare earths and other critical materials, experts suggest that further export restrictions may be imminent.
The following article explores the implications of China’s metal export curbs and the potential for countries to diversify their supply chains in response.
China’s Metal Export Curbs and Implications:
China’s commerce ministry announced restrictions on the exports of gallium and germanium, metals crucial for semiconductor production, effective from August 1.
This move is widely interpreted as a warning to Europe and the United States amid the ongoing tech war over advanced chips.
China is a dominant player, accounting for 60% of the world’s germanium and 80% of gallium production. Consequently, concerns have been raised by the European Commission and the U.S. about China’s planned curbs.
Potential for Diversification:
Experts suggest that China’s export curbs on chip metals could serve as a wake-up call for countries to diversify their supply chains away from China.
Stewart Randall from Shanghai-based consultancy Intralink asserts that if China takes no action, most countries would be content to rely solely on China for their supply.
However, with the recent restrictions, some countries may gradually focus on building up alternative production capabilities elsewhere.
This approach would help mitigate risks associated with relying heavily on a single supplier.
“We can expect to witness ongoing export restrictions that will have an impact on other resources, such as rare earths. China, once again, dominates over 85% of the production of these materials.”
Luisa Moreno, President of Defense Metals Corp, predicts that China may impose further restrictions on metal exports, potentially including rare earths.
China’s previous actions, such as halting rare earth exports to Japan in 2010 and threatening the U.S. with similar measures in 2019, indicate a willingness to employ such strategies.
Challenges and Considerations:
While diversification away from China is a feasible strategy, challenges and considerations exist. The immediate impact of the metal export curbs might not be substantial. However, if China expands restrictions to other critical materials, it could pose a more significant challenge in the long term.
Additionally, China needs to be cautious as blocking exports could also harm its domestic companies by losing foreign customers.
The price of metals like gallium and germanium might be affected more than overall supply, but it remains important to establish alternative sources to ensure resilience and security in the global supply chain.
Alternative Suppliers and Recycling Efforts:
Although China dominates gallium and germanium production, it is not the sole producer. Countries such as Russia, Ukraine, Japan, and South Korea also produce gallium, while Belgium, Germany, and Russia manufacture germanium.
Furthermore, Canada, Germany, Japan, Slovakia, and the United States recycle gallium from new scrap, while the U.S. can recycle both new and old scrap for germanium.
These alternative sources and recycling efforts contribute to maintaining a competitive market and help mitigate supply chain disruptions.
China’s export curbs on chip metals, particularly gallium and germanium, have prompted concerns about the overreliance on China and the need to diversify supply chains. The potential for further export restrictions, including rare earths, has heightened these concerns. While challenges exist, various countries and companies are exploring alternative production sources and recycling efforts to reduce dependence on China. Diversification efforts will enhance supply chain resilience and security, ultimately benefiting the global tech industry.