Recent trade spats with the US have caused Chinese officials to block shipments of rare earth minerals, a key element of high-tech products ranging from hybrid cars to missiles. China controls production of 97% of so-called rare earth minerals, LiveScience reports, which really aren't so much rare as expensive and time-consuming to process. Experts say it might take the US up to 15 years to get its own supplies.
Last month China also cut Japan off in a dispute over the arrest of Chinese fishermen, affecting battery production for the Prius. Toyota, however, is believed to have large temporary stockpiles of these minerals, whereas many US firms do not. Click here for Paul Krugman's take. Read the full article here.