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Chinese influence on the world’s Lithium reserve, raises eyebrows

  China is aggressively asserting its dominion over the renewable energy sector. They are now the world’s leader in global Lithium products and associated industries. The US is trying to play catch up in this segment for quite a few years. The recent policy changes have helped them bridge the gap to a good extent, occupying the second spot. The countries that are economical juggernauts tend to hanker after a lion’s share in the fuel sources, be it traditional or unconventional. Authority over the source and distribution of a specific fuel makes it quite easy to manipulate the related market. Consequently, a country can reap a major chunk of benefits, strengthening the economy manifold. Petroleum was the most effective yet economical fuel source in the past century. The Gulf countries prospered from the global petrol trade and they did not care much about any international sanctions that came their way. However, with the new age approaching, it is predicted that it would belong to Lithium instead. Starting from Smartphones, Laptops to the modern electric vehicles (EV), Lithium is the major component, as the Lithium-ion batteries power them. China is trying to capture the market, which may put the economic dominance of the petroleum countries to question. Pollution is a common concern with traditional energy sources like coal and petroleum. Several provinces in China had a very poor Air Quality Index for decades. To remedying the condition and counter pollution, the usage of renewable energy sources is being incentivized across China, resulting in very high demand for Lithium. The Chinese customers bought 37 percent of electric Passenger SUVs sold since 2011. Now, China can control around 50 percent of the global production of Lithium and over 60 percent of battery production. Presently, the Chinese companies have stakes in Lithium mining in South America and Australia. They are also investing in Cobalt, another major component of rechargeable batteries. China’s deals with several South American countries have cost around US$4bn in two years only. In Bolivia, their primary venture was thwarted by a German company. However, China soon recuperated by gaining a majority share in another Bolivian company, along with a strong position in Chile’s Lithium industries. Simultaneously, China is ever expanding its influence in Asia. War-torn Afghanistan is not spared from it too, which is estimated to be around US$1 trillion. It can provide a major hand to the world’s need for green energy while lifting the collapsed Afghan economy too. How much of that would happen under the Chinese influence - the question remains. Without proper planning and framework, China’s growth in the renewable energy segment will be unchecked. It may have a negative role in the global economy too, especially with their controversial work condition and payment policies to the workers. The new discoveries in Europe and several places in North America, may dampen their unhindered progress a bit. However, without prompt action and proper pricing, the race to dominance will continue. It may even result in a long-lasting global political conflict.



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