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SHANGHAI (Reuters) - China, the world's largest producer and consumer of rare earths, should boost imports of the materials due to growing demand and to protect domestic resources, the China Daily reported on Wednesday, citing senior industry officials.

Global demand for rare earths, crucial in manufacturing high-tech products such as smartphones and hybrid cars, is expected to rise sharply, with appetite in China growing even faster, Liu Yinan, vice-chairman of the China Chamber of Commerce of Metals, Minerals & Chemicals Importers & Exporters, was reported as saying.

The country should particularly look to ship in more medium and heavy rare earths, used to make complex products such as turbines and computer chips, Liu said. China has abundant supplies of light rare earths in northern areas, but a much smaller amount of the more expensive medium and heavy kinds.

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