Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Denver news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Des Moines news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Minneapolis-St. Paul news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tampa Bay news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Charlotte news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Soil containing various rare earths in Lianyungang, China. Photo: STR/AFP/Getty Images

Five days after Trump moved to cut off American components to Chinese telecoms giant Huawei, President Xi Jinping responded with a subtle threat to strangle America’s supplies of rare earths — the natural elements used in everything from computers to satellites.

The big picture: Xi’s threat demonstrates how the rivalry between a rising China and a ruling U.S. spreads from trade to technology to supply chains, touching every aspect of bilateral relations. The conflict risks massive spillover costs to the global economy.

Details: Rare earths are the 17 elements that separate the 21st century from the 20th, and China supplies 80% of them. Although the U.S. government has called them "essential" to the military, America has only 1 rare earths mine, which is partially Chinese-owned and sends its output to China for processing.

Between the lines: Trump may have hoped his Huawei order would force Beijing’s hand, but Xi can’t tolerate a hit to such a prominent firm.

  • On Monday, Xi toured a Chinese company specializing in rare earths. Notably by his side: Liu He, Beijing’s chief trade negotiator.
  • If China throttles supplies to America (or its manufacturing chains), production could halt for gadgets from iPhones to F-35s.

Flashback: After Japan detained a Chinese captain who sailed into disputed territory in 2010, Beijing hit Tokyo with conventional diplomatic and economic sticks. Japan refused to release him, but then China squeezed its exports of rare earths and Tokyo folded just two days later.

What to watch: If Trump completes his attack on Huawei, Xi could retaliate against U.S. tech titans that rely on rare earths, such as Tesla and Apple.

Graham Allison is the former director of Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.

Go deeper

Brazil begins distributing AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine

Containers carrying doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine arrive in Brazil. Photo: Maurio Pimentel/AFP via Getty Images

Brazil on Saturday began distributing the 2 million doses of the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine that arrived from India Friday, Reuters reports.

Why it matters: Brazil has the third highest COVID-19 case-count in the world, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The 2 million doses "only scratch the surface of the shortfall," Brazilian public health experts told the AP.

Sullivan speaks with Israel's national security adviser for the first time

Israeli national security adviser Meir Ben Shabbat U.S. Photo: Mazen Mahdi/Getty Images. U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan. Photo: Chandan Khanna/Getty Images

U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan spoke on the phone Saturday with his Israeli counterpart Meir Ben Shabbat, Israeli officials tell Axios.

Why it matters: This is the first contact between the Biden White House and Israeli prime minister's office. During the transition, the Biden team refrained from speaking to foreign governments.

Biden speaks to Mexican president about reversing Trump's "draconian immigration policies"

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. Ismael Rosas/Eyepix Group/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

President Biden told his Mexican counterpart, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, on a phone call Friday that he plans to reverse former President Trump’s “draconian immigration policies.”

The big picture: The Biden administration has already started repealing several of Trump’s immigration policies, including ordering a 100-day freeze on deporting many unauthorized immigrants, halting work on the southern border wall, and reversing plans to exclude undocumented people from being included in the 2020 census.