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A-level Sociology and Global Politics


(Green New Deal York Collab – Rare Earth Elements: China’s Monopoly, International Relations and the Environment [1]Link opens in a new window)

Rare earth metals and their alloys populate many of our everyday devices: rechargeable batteries, cell phones, magnets, fluorescent lighting, and the list goes on. But, as with any rare or sought-after resource, the supply chain is caught up in global politics. The demand has exploded within the last 20 years as personal cellphones have become commonplace and their use in computer components has grown [2]Link opens in a new window.

Complicating matters further, they play a large role in national defense industries, making up precision-guided weapons, GPS equipment, and more — and the bulk of the world’s supply is controlled by China. Though interest in alternatives has been growing over the past few years, it is compounded by China’s recent push for tighter control. So what does the future of our electronic devices look like? [2]Link opens in a new window

Given the critical reliance on rare earths for national security needs, not to mention promising new technologies, there’s been growing concern over the past few years about this exclusive reliance on China as a sole source of supply. This concern has been heightened by recent Chinese moves to tighten export quotas, as well as talk (so far just talk) about banning the export of certain rare earths entirely, presumably to favor the development of domestic high-tech industries. Such worries were heightened even further this week as a result of the latest diplomatic fracas between China and Japan over some disputed islands in the East China Sea. It has been widely reported that, in retaliation for Japan’s arrest of a Chinese fishing boat captain in the contested waters, China effectively halted shipments of rare earth supplies critical to Japan’s electronics industry. China officially denied that any embargo had taken place, and shipments have since resumed. But the episode sent shivers down the spines of leaders around the world, crystallizing unspoken fears that a more powerful China might use its monopoly on rare earths and similar forms of economic leverage as a weapon. The next time they fall into a disagreement with China, they have to wonder, will China play hardball and cut them off from vital resources? [3]Link opens in a new window



Rare Earth Elements Education Resources for Sociology and Global Politics

china monopoly

(Rare earths are as critical to the modern economy as oil – and China has quietly secured a near-monopoly [4]Link opens in a new window)


Here, we summuarized education resources for teaching Rare Earth Elements in the Sociology course in the AQA examboards, and Global Politics course in the IB examboards:

Assessment and Qualifcations Alliance (AQA)

Sociology (7191, 7192)


4.2.4 Work, poverty, and welfare 

4.2.6 Global Development 


International Baccalaureate (IB)

Global Politics

Core units: People, power and politics 

2. Human rights 






For Further Curriculum information, please visit the following examboard website.

Assessment and Qualifcations Alliance (AQA)


International Baccalaureate (IB)