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ARE CHINESE ENTITIES BUYING FARMLAND NEAR US MILITARY BASES?

Lewis Li, Counter Threat Strategic Communications (CTSC) Team

Jennifer Loy, Chief Editor

Week of Monday, June 24, 2024


Farmland[1]


Claim: The New York Post published an article claiming that Chinese entities have been purchasing farmland near US military bases, raising national security concerns about potential espionage and sabotage.[2] The article included a map showing the notable bases near these acquisitions, including Fort Liberty in North Carolina, Camp Pendleton in California, and MacDill Air Force Base in Florida.[3] Users have reposted the article on LinkedIn.[4]

Facts: 

  • The Chinese Fufeng Group purchased land near a US Air Force base in Grand Forks, North Dakota, in 2021, raising national security concerns among lawmakers.[5] FuFeng has ties to the Chinese government and plans to build a corn mill plant near the base.[6] The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) is currently fining the Chinese company for late filing and disclosure.[7]

  • Using data from the USDA's report on Foreign Holdings of U.S. Agricultural Land, NPR mapped Chinese-owned farmland, revealing 9,952 acres in Polk County, Florida, near MacDill Air Force Base and 277 acres in San Diego County near Camp Pendleton. Smithfield Foods, acquired by the Chinese WH Group in 2013, owns a farm in Raeford, North Carolina, less than 25 miles from Fort Liberty, which is home to the US Special Operations Command.[8] Sun Guangxin, a Chinese billionaire, owns 100,000 acres of land in Val Verde County, Texas, the same county as Laughlin Air Force Base.[9] 

  • An NBC News review of USDA documents found that the total amount of US agricultural land owned by Chinese interests is less than 0.03% of the country's 1.3 billion acres of agricultural land.[10] The investigation also found lax federal oversight and minimal enforcement of foreign ownership reporting.[11] The USDA requires foreign entities to report agricultural land transactions within 90 days, but some disclosures were delayed by years, and penalties for non-compliance have been minimal.[12]

  • State lawmakers are developing legislation to prevent Chinese citizens and companies from purchasing farmland.[13] South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem signed a law barring China and five other countries from buying farmland.[14] The Treasury Department’s Office of Investment Security has also proposed a rule forcing foreign citizens and companies to receive US government approval to purchase property within 100 miles of military bases.[15]

Analysis & Implications:

  • The proximity of Chinese-owned farmland to US military bases almost certainly raises significant national security concerns, primarily due to the risk of espionage and sabotage. Chinese entities will likely use their proximity to gather intelligence on military operations and disrupt critical infrastructure, compromising US defense capabilities. Compromised military intelligence will almost certainly weaken US defense capabilities, giving adversaries strategic advantages in global conflicts.

  • Legislation preventing Chinese citizens and companies from purchasing farmland will likely reduce foreign investment in the US agricultural sector, potentially slowing down economic growth in rural communities. The legislation will likely disrupt the agricultural market by straining trade relationships and reducing agricultural exports to China, negatively impacting American farmers' revenues. These measures will likely escalate tensions with China, leading to retaliatory actions and further straining trade relations. The new regulations will likely lead to a discrimination lawsuit by Chinese nationals who immigrated to the US.

  • Lax federal oversight will likely force more states to develop and enforce their own regulations regarding foreign land ownership. Increased state-level legislation will very likely cause heightened jurisdictional tensions between state and federal governments, as foreign policy is the federal government's responsibility under the US Constitution. States implementing their own regulations will likely cause discrepancies in the legal landscape across the country, which will likely cause challenges in maintaining a unified national policy on foreign investments.

Verdict: TRUE

 

[1] Farmland, generated by a third party database

[2] Map shows Chinese-owned farmland next to 19 US military bases in ‘alarming’ threat to national security: experts, New York Post, June 2024, https://nypost.com/2024/06/20/us-news/chinese-owned-farmland-next-to-19-us-military-bases/ 

[3] Ibid

[5] China owns 380,000 acres of land in the US Here's where, NPR, June, 2023, https://www.npr.org/2023/06/26/1184053690/chinese-owned-farmland-united-states 

[6] Ibid

[7] Ibid

[8] Residential Property Record Card - Hoke County, North Carolina, Hoke County GIS, June, 2024, https://maps.hokecounty.org/TaxCards/394030001007-01.pdf | Note: Carrolls Realty

Partnership is a subsidiary of Smithfield Food, Inc. according to the Security Exchange Commission: https://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/91388/000119312504119607/dex21.htm 

[9] China owns 380,000 acres of land in the US Here's where, NPR, June, 2023, https://www.npr.org/2023/06/26/1184053690/chinese-owned-farmland-united-states 

[10] Is China really buying up US farmland? Here’s what we found, NBC News, August, 2023, https://www.nbcnews.com/news/investigations/how-much-us-farmland-china-own-rcna99274 

[11] Ibid

[12] Ibid

[13] US states are cutting off Chinese citizens and companies from land ownership, Politico, April 2024, https://www.politico.com/news/2024/04/03/state-laws-china-land-buying-00150030 

[14] Ibid

[15] Foreign purchase of land near US military bases would require government approval under proposed rule, NBC News, May, 2023, https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/national-security/foreign-china-buy-land-us-military-bases-require-government-approval-rcna83152 

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