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Climate Change

Who will be the battery powerhouse? China, Japan and the West compete

From lithium to assembly, a global dash is on to secure supply chains

Qarhan Salt Lake has helped make China's Qinghai Province a major producer of lithium. (Photo by Yusuke Hinata)

TOKYO -- The shimmering salt crystals on the shores of Qarhan Salt Lake in western China's Qinghai Province formed at the bottom of an ancient sea millions of years ago. Today, they are a strategic resource in a global competition over the next generation of energy.

The site, its name derived from Mongolian for "world of salt," is rich in valuable metals including lithium, a critical component of modern batteries. Such sites have made Qinghai a center for lithium production, accounting for 10% of global output last year, and helped China secure a 70% share of the market for lithium-ion batteries.

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