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NDRC official talks about the development of China's rare-earth industry

(Global Times)    14:56, May 29, 2019

On May 20, Chinese President Xi Jinping visited JL MAG Rare-Earth Co, a Ganzhou-based high-technology company specializing in research and development (R&D) into rare-earth permanent magnetic materials to learn about the company's operations and the development of the rare-earth industry in the city of Ganzhou in Jiangxi Province. He gave important instructions on promoting the sustainable development of the rare-earth industry. Xi's remarks have stimulated discussions on the development of the rare-earth industry. Below are excerpts from recent interviews with an official of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) on the related issues.

Question: President Xi Jinping's inspection tour to a local area has always been a hot topic at home and abroad. On May 20, President Xi made Ganzhou the first stop of his inspection tour to China's central region. Please explain why.

Answer: Jiangxi is a key province in China's central region. The south part of Jiangxi Province where Ganzhou is located is an old revolutionary base and the cradle of the People's Republic of China. However, due to various reasons, the economic and social development of the area has been lagging behind. Chinese President Xi Jinping attaches great importance to the development of the area and made important instructions many times.

In recent years, the area has developed rapidly. But its overall economic scale and per capita income level are still low. President Xi's visit to the area, taking Ganzhou as the first stop, fully embodied the concern of the central government and the Party for the people of Ganzhou and showed that they attach great importance to accelerating the high-quality development of the old revolutionary areas.

Question: We noticed that Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Ganzhou, went to JL MAG Rare-Earth Co, and gave important instructions on promoting the sustainable development of the rare-earth industry during his trip. Although the term "rare earth" is very popular, most people don't necessarily know what it is. Can you tell us about the development of the rare-earth industry?

Answer: Rare earths are non-renewable resources, including a total of 17 elements, usually divided into light rare earths and heavy rare earths, and heavy rare earths are more valuable. Rare earth elements have excellent physical properties such as light electromagnetics.

When rare-earth elements are added to other materials, they can greatly improve the quality and performance of the products, and play the role of "turning stone into gold," which is known as the "vitamin" of the modern industry. Rare-earth elements are widely used in modern industrial fields such as metallurgy, petrochemicals, opticals, laser, hydrogen storage, display panels, and magnetic materials.

With the continuous advancement of the world's scientific and technological revolution and industrial transformation, the application scope of rare-earth elements is further expanding, and its strategic value and significance will be more prominent.

Ganzhou has incomparable and irreplaceable rare-earth resources, with its heavy rare earths accounting for 80 percent of the country's total storage. In recent years, by integrating market resources and increasing R&D investment, Ganzhou has achieved a leading level of separation and smelting technology in the country. Its industrial scale accounts for one-third of the national total and has become an important production base and new material industry for rare-earth smelting products in China.

At the same time, the development of the rare- earth industry in Ganzhou is also facing many challenges. For example, the progress of corporate integration is slow, and the scale effect has not been fully utilized; corporate management ability is weak, and production is still scattered; the green development capability lags behind, environmental protection and safety issues still need to be solved; the R&D investment is insufficient, and the application of the high-end industry needs to be further improved. These problems are being steadily settled through deepening reform and opening-up.

Question: The public believes that the ongoing China-US economic and trade frictions are escalating. As a strategic resource of China, rare earths may become the country's important leverage to counter the US. How do you view this?

Answer: In today's world, where industrial division of labor is highly globalized, no development and progress can be achieved without cooperation. As the world's largest supplier of rare-earth materials, China has always adhered to the principle of openness, synergy and sharing to promote the development of the rare-earth industry. On the one hand, we adhere to the principle that rare-earth resources should serve domestic needs first; on the other hand, we are also willing to meet the legitimate needs of countries around the world for rare-earth resources.

We are pleased to see that China's rare-earth resources and products can be widely used in manufacturing various advanced products to better meet the needs of people around the world for a better life.

You asked that whether rare earths will become China's countermeasures against the US. What I can tell you is that if anyone wants to use products made of China's rare-earth exports to contain China's development, the people of Ganzhou and across China will not be happy with that. 

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Xian Jiangnan, Bianji)

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