IN EARLY 2020 Swedish battery-makers noticed something alarming. Their Chinese suppliers were no longer able to sell them graphite, a mineral crucial to the production of lithium-ion cells.

The Swedes assumed the problem would pass. Yet three years on, as Chinese investments in the battery industry have surged in Europe, Swedish firms are still largely cut off. 

In 2020 China's export to Sweden of two types of graphite nearly disappeared. In 2021 and 2022 they vanished completely.

Although China's commerce ministry has issued no formal ban, many Chinese graphite exporters face a prohibition in all but name.

One company was told that licenses to export graphite to Sweden were no longer being issued by Chinese regulators.

Given that China supplies more than 60% of the world's natural graphite and almost all the man-made versions, the situation alarms producers that rely on China for the graphite anodes used in their cells.

A halt in supplies from China can upset supply chains, raise costs and disrupt production.

For Sweden, where the industry is just getting off the ground, a total ban on exports could do serious damage.

In its official statement on the matter, the European Commission said earlier this year that the drying up of Chinese graphite exports '' is creating negative repercussions for battery production in Europe, a key sector for the EU green transition''.

The World Students Society thanks The Economist.


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