Iron ore: the PRC, Taiwan & Guinea

When will China be ready to invade Taiwan?..It is likely that at least some supplies of raw materials into the Chinese economy would be cut off if it does happen. Possibly the most vital of these would be the iron ore with which China is building itself…

The imports come mainly from Australia, and a war over Taiwan would interdict that…China will probably only feel free to initiate those hostilities when it can replace those supplies…

The last – last known at least – vast hematite deposit is in Guinea in West Africa. This is like those vast Australian deposits. Shovel the mountains into the rail cars and ship them off…

The whole thing is called “Simandou”… this type of iron ore mining is a lot less about mining than it is about transporting the stuff, which means building a railway to get it to the coast and a harbour to get it aboard ships to China. So the opening of Simandou depends on how quickly 600km of railroad line can be built, with port facilities at the end. Progress on the project was delayed for many years…

The whispering, perhaps muttering, around the industry is that 2028 looks like a better date for something that could work reliably for the desired decades…China would find it very troublesome to invade Taiwan without a replacement iron ore supply. That can really only come from this project in Guinea. Which might, maybe, start shipping in 2025 if cost truly isn’t a worry but later is more likely.



China is very dependent on imports for other critical items as well, including oil, fertilizer and food. Sanctions would be more than just painful.

He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.


Indeed. As we have seen with Russia, the amount of pain is also dependent upon who goes along with the sanctions.



I take little comfort in these sorts of things. In the 1930’s the militarists in Japan set about getting their raw materials by force, invading Manchuria and deeper into China, and when threatened by the US cutoff of oil (for which Japan had no substitute) attacked Pearl Harbor, planning to create a Japanese sphere of influence throughout the region, including taking the British/Dutch oil fields in Burma.

People who think “expansion” don’t seem to be deterred by reality, hence the hundreds of wars throughout human history. I absolutely expect China, at some point, to take Taiwan by force. What anybody else can do about it is an open question in my mind.


I’m not so sure. China is very patient, it has a longer history than any extant country by far. They have alternative ways of taking Taiwan, slowly and silently. All they have to do is to slowly move “loyal” people in, and slowly move “disloyal” people out. Then simply wait a few decades and Taiwan is fully part of China with minimal bloodshed.

Well, keeping the latest Russian war going for a long as possible is one thing that the [western] world is doing. The idea is to so thoroughly wreck the Russian economy that China will think twice and three times before embarking on similar military adventures.


I want to buck the ‘China is out to conquer the world’ rhetoric. It is not doing that at all. China has always been concerned and preoccupied with its internal affairs and with it being the center of power (the middle kingdom). Throughout most of its long history, it was a power to be reckoned with after it succeeded to unify itself into an entity that outsiders have come to call China. It was satisfied that its neighbors recognized its power and influence (‘we accept your tributes and let’s call it off for the day’). Chinese culture spread not because of coercion or force but because the neighbors wanted to adopt it for their own benefits. Like the European civilizations had a basis in the greek and roman civilization, there was a Sinic world that influenced cultures and histories in East Asia. Certainly China had had tensions and wars with its neighbors but nothing like Europe where wars were a constant. China did not need to wage war and had no intention to expand and conquer other lands. This is in contrast to the Europeans who always were looking to take from their neighbors. We do not need to call upon their intentions to see that the Chinese were pretty much boxed in (after they unified their territories) due to geography. Where could they go? it was hard to go anywhere. They were fine and satisfied to be in China proper and did not (think) need (they needed) anything from the outside world. Famously the Emperors told the European merchants they didn’t need anything from the West. They were simply living and were not compelled in any way to go out.

Geography has not changed (it is still against them) but today they do need high-techs, oil and other natural resources which they have to reach out to get. So what will they do? Won’t they become aggressive like the Europeans had? The Europeans were like that so why not the Chinese? If you are to find answers to this question in history (and geography) then the answer would be: NO they will not act like the colonialist as a recent example. If you want to find the answer elsewhere then the answer would be maybe or maybe not if they can get their way by other means. China never had, contrary to the US and European powers, military forces stationed outside permanently. Even today it does not have much of a military presence anywhere in the world. The US has military bases in Korea, in Japan and all around. So who is threatening who? Who is the aggressive one?

China wants to take back Taiwan for valid reasons. It tried before (after the Communist took power) but it could not. The US did not allow that to happen. It still does not allow it to do so today. However China today has improved capabilities and the balance of power has tilted. Whether it uses force or not depends on what the US will do about Taiwan. It takes two to play a game. So it is not only up to China. The respective stakes are quite unequal. It is a high stake for China and the region but what is the US at risk of losing? There is absolutely no risk for US citizens and for the US itself. The only risk that the US perceive it has is that they could lose their supremacy around the China seas and in the Pacific. China is not challenging them in the Pacific but it wants control in the water off its coast. China for a long time did not have a Navy so that was something it could not advocate for itself then. But now that it has one and it wants to assert itself and protect its waters. Wouldn’t any country do the same? The US is certainly doing it. So why would it want to stop China from doing so? What do you think would happen if the Chinese Navy were to go around Cuba? That is a hypothetical question since the US knows that China do not the have the capabilities to project power that far. However, the US Navy has cruised through the Taiwan strait many times. Now that China can tell it to back off, it is aggression on the part of China? Does that even make sense?