The 17 "rare earth elements" are essential for the development of new technologies. Over the last several decades, China has established a virtual monopoly on the rare earth industry, producing over 97% of the world's current demand. This was achieved by effectively undercutting other producers who stopped competing in this market. In 2010, in an effort to bolster its domestic market, China decided to reduce the amount of rare earth elements that it would export. This situation can be used to consider China's relations with the rest of the world from two perspectives. (1) The realist perspective views China's actions as threatening to both the US hegemony and our system of international institutions. (2) Alternatively, the liberal view interprets the Chinese activities as defensive, protectionist and benign. The liberal view has more evidence to support it, considering economic, political and social constraints that prevent the Chinese leadership from taking total control of the international marketplace for the rare earth elements. To continue its long-term development and economic growth, a rational China will choose not to act in a way that would cause other countries to mistrust China.

First Advisor

Dillman, Bradford

Degree Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts, International Political Economy (BA)


International Political Economy

Date of Award

Spring 2012