Ownership of U.S. farmland by Chinese nationals has risen significantly in the last decade and amounted to 338,000 acres as of 2020, according to U.S. Agriculture Department data.
Since 2010, Chinese nationals have reportedly purchased an additional 75,000 acres of U.S. farmland, according to U.S. Agriculture Department data obtained by the WSJ. Although amounting to less than 1% of all U.S. agricultural land held by foreign citizens, ownership of U.S. farmland by Chinese nationals has received increased scrutiny in recent years following warnings from U.S. government officials claiming that the Chinese government may seek to use the land for military and espionage purposes, according to the WSJ.
“South Dakota is now the only home of the B-21 Bomber,” South Dakota Republican Governor Kristi Noem said on Friday. “That’s huge for both our state’s economy and our national security, but it also means that hostile countries like China are going to do whatever they can to get intelligence on that bomber.”
“Just last year we saw a Chinese entity purchase land near an Air Force Base in North Dakota,” Noem said. “Though they claimed it was for corn processing, there is not enough corn nearby to justify the facility. So, it appears to be more nefarious.”
Promising jobs and increased tax revenue, Chinese company Fufeng Group purchased 370 acres of farmland in Grand Forks, North Dakota, claiming their intention to build a $700 million corn mill, the WSJ reported.
While supportive of Fufeng’s proposal at first, Grand Forks Mayor Brandon Bochenski reportedly changed his mind about the corn mill’s construction after receiving a U.S. Air Force letter first made public in January, according to a related WSJ report from January, which identified Fufeng’s project as a counterintelligence threat, given its close proximity to Grand Forks Air Force Base.
Grand Forks has since denied Fufeng building permits.
Similarly, Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott signed the Lone Star Infrastructure Protection Act in June 2022, which, among other things, prohibits Texas businesses from entering into agreements related to “critical infrastructure” with companies owned by Chinese citizens. Abbot’s bill emerged after an alleged former Chinese military officer’s company purchased a wind farm in Val Verde County near Laughlin Air Force Base, according to Forbes.
Half of all U.S. agricultural land owned by Chinese nationals is reportedly located in Texas, according to the WSJ.
The U.S. government has also identified Chinese intelligence threats emanating from U.S. urban areas.
America Changle Association, a New York City social group allegedly tied to Chinese intelligence, closed recently after the FBI raided the organization’s Manhattan office sometime in fall 2022. Changle’s closure came several months after the DCNF found that during a 2021 video conference, Chinese officials identified Changle’s former chairman as having worked with an alleged Chinese intelligence service.
U.S. officials also reportedly scuttled a 2017 Chinese government proposal to build a $100 million garden at the National Arboretum in Washington, D.C., CNN reported. Authorities reportedly determined that the project’s proposed location presented a surveillance threat, given the National Arboretum’s location at one of the highest points in the capital.
The Chinese Consulate did not respond immediately to the DCNF’s request for comment and Fufeng could not be reached.