In the dystopia imagined in the video game Call of Duty: Black Ops II, the year 2025 is defined by a rampaging cult, a zombie apocalypse--and a war between the U.S. and China for control of the world's supply of rare earths, materials crucial to the production of everything from mobile phones to weapons. Early in the game, a character waves around a smart phone, lecturing on the importance of rare earths. "Who controls all of it?" he asks ominously. "China."
It's only a video game, but not long ago that scenario--minus the zombies--seemed uncomfortably...