Chinese investors own land in the U.S. equivalent to roughly twice the size of the footprint of New York City, amid concerns that China is attempting to buy up parcels of land near Air Force bases.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) latest report on foreign ownership of American land, from 2021, 146 Chinese investors held 383,935 acres—nearly double the 193,700 acres that comprise New York City.
The USDA report said the 366 parcels amounted to less than 1 percent of foreign-held land, with a total value of $2.1 billion dollars.
The issue of Chinese land ownership in the U.S. has been reignited in recent days. Andrew Hunter, an assistant secretary of the Department of the Air Force, sent a letter on January 27 to North Dakota Senator John Hoeven.
Hunter urged against a proposal from the Fufeng Group, a Chinese biomanufacturer, to build a wet corn milling plant, 12 miles from the Grand Forks Air Force base in the north-east of the state.
In the letter, Hunter wrote: “The Department’s view is unambiguous: the proposed project presents a significant threat to national security with both near- and long-term risks of significant impacts to our operations in the area.”
Hunter noted that the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States had concluded it did not have jurisdiction. He added that the Air Force base “is the center of military activities related to both air and space operations.”
“We believe the city should discontinue the Fufeng project and instead we should work together to find an American company to develop the agriculture project,” senators Hoeven and Kevin Cramer, both Republicans, wrote in a January 31 statement.
Newsweek has contacted the Fufeng Group for comment.
The letter has prompted fresh calls for new legislation to be passed preventing the purchase of U.S. land near military installations.
“There needs to be a law passed by both houses, signed by the president, monitoring this or saying it cannot be done so many miles away from an air force base, but there’s no action by Congress,” Michael Pillsbury, director of the Center on Chinese Strategy at the Hudson Institute, told Fox News on Monday.
“There has to be legal action taken,” he added. “It has to be a crime, for example, to do some of the things that are being done to help China in our country. There’s no sign that’s happening at all; that’s what concerns me the most.”
“There should be national legislation,” Kathleen McFarland, former deputy national security adviser in the Trump administration, told the news channel. “They should not be allowed to scoop up American farmland, especially near critical military facilities.”
Meanwhile, Randy Feenstra, a Republican congressman representing Iowa, tweeted on Tuesday: “China must be banned from buying farmland ANYWHERE in our country, especially near our military bases.”
Several bills have been introduced in recent years looking to limit or prohibit foreign investment in U.S. land, but none has been passed.
In August 2022, Republican senator for Arizona Tom Cotton brought a bill—co-sponsored by senators Tommy Tuberville of Alabama and Roger Marshall of Kansas, both Republican—to “direct the President to take such actions as may be necessary to prohibit the purchase of public or private real estate located in the United States by the Chinese Communist Party.”
“Chinese investments in American farmland put our food security at risk and provide opportunities for Chinese espionage against our military bases and critical infrastructure,” Cotton stated at the time.
“There are two things that make Chinese ownership in our farmland particularly concerning,” Ralph Norman, a Republican congressman representing South Carolina, wrote in a blog following the introduction of the bill.
“First, foreign investors from China are under the total and absolute control of the communist Chinese government. And second, that government has become increasingly hostile towards America.”
Fears of espionage by China have been heightened since a Chinese spy balloon was shot down off the coast of South Carolina on Saturday. It passed over the continental U.S. but China has said that the aircraft was a wayward weather balloon.
With a majority in the House of Representatives, and a slim Democrat majority in the senate, GOP lawmakers may now look to introduce fresh legislation in this session of congress to limit Chinese investment in U.S. land.
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