The People’s Republic of China recently announced new restrictions on exports of two types of metal used in advanced technology, including computer chips and solar cells, as tensions rise between China and the United States.
According to ABC News, the new measures limiting trade of gallium and germanium come ahead of Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen’s visit to Beijing later this week. China’s Commerce Ministry justified the move in a statement on Monday, claiming it was simply a way to “safeguard national security.” From this point on, any exports of the material will require official permission after August 1st.
The U.S. had already implemented similar restrictions on access to processor chips and similar technology made in China, on the basis of protecting America from the vulnerability of being dependent on a hostile nation for such technology. In addition to its own restrictions on Chinese access to chips and technology necessary to create them, the U.S. has also convinced several partners to join in on similar restrictions against China, including Japan and the Netherlands.
China had been reluctant to retaliate due to its dependence on the industry for business with many other countries around the world, especially as it remains the single largest source of gallium and germanium in the world. China last year exported approximately 25 tons of gallium, and produces at least 660 tons of germanium per year. The U.S. currently relies on China for roughly half of its supplies of both metals.
Yellen is set to visit China on Thursday, amid rising tensions between the two countries over a number of intelligence and military disputes, ranging from a Chinese spy balloon over U.S. airspace earlier this year, to China’s repeated military threats against the island nation of Taiwan.