Lithium: another war between the US and China


Behind climate change, the green economy, energy transition and clean energy, there are fierce battles for supremacy in the sharing of the world between the United States, China and Russia. A fourth power, India, navigates between the interests of the three with its own agenda, but closer to the interests of the Eastern bloc.

A head-on struggle between the Christian Western world, led by the United States and the powers of Europe, against the economic and strategic interests of the Orthodox Eastern world, Islam, Buddhism and Taoism, led by China and Russia. Indeed, there are several wars going on at the same time for international preponderance, yet religious aspects are little examined, but they are key to the new architecture of the world order.

The United States seeks to retain the unipolar power it achieved with the collapse of the Soviet Union and is unwilling to cede that power to China and Russia. One of the foreign policy blunders of the Barack Obama and Joe Biden administrations has been the sanctions against Russia, which have strengthened the alliance of the Moscow-Beijing axis and, in the process, have allowed it to bring in other countries that have economic and geopolitical relevance in Asia, such as India, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Pakistan.

In its struggle for world dominance, the United States is waging several wars. On the one hand, a war against Russia for the control and domination of fossil fuels: oil and gas. On the other, a war against China for control of lithium reserves, a key mineral for the energy transition and the production of clean energy. A third front of war with China for superiority in the microchip and artificial intelligence industry.

The lithium war against China began in Donald Trump's administration, when he declared a national emergency to develop a strategic policy to control the world's lithium reserves and thus seek to confront Chinese advances in the aforementioned industry.

Trump's order was that a bolder policy should be developed because China's advances in the lithium industry and control of lithium were a threat to US security, industry and strategic interests.

The Trump administration's concerns were obvious, because China has the most important advances in the lithium industry in the world, the most strategic mineral for the development of the electric vehicle industry and for the development of clean energy.

Lithium is a strategic and indispensable mineral for the manufacture of electric cars, batteries for thermal imaging cameras, mobile phones and wind and solar energy storage units. It is therefore a key mineral in the shift from fossil fuels to clean energy.

The lithium industry in the US is lagging behind and in China very advanced, the Chinese control and refine 60% of the world's lithium production, the world's electric car markets and dominate the electric battery markets with 80-90% of global capacity. Six of the ten largest electric vehicle battery producers are based in China.

In Latin America, the Chinese control the lithium market in the white gold triangle of Bolivia (30%), Chile (21%) and Argentina (17%) of global reserves with three global companies: Ganfeng Lithium, Tianqi Lithium and Zijin Mining. A report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington says that the United States is not prepared to meet the demand of the lithium industry in the coming years and China can use its dominant position in the conflict to lead the global transition to clean energy.

In the opinion of Mexican researcher Beatriz Olivera, "if the processes for extracting lithium continue to be polluting and mining companies violate the rights of communities, there will be no progress, it will just be a make-up of what is called clean energy". Conclusion: beyond the importance of the energy transition and clean energy, behind them are hidden the same modalities of world domination of the powers that be.