U.S. lawmakers fear that China could gain control over the U.S. food and energy supply, as well as a hold on markets and critical infrastructure, as the country has already amassed a significant amount of farmland.
In the U.S., eight states, including Florida, Virginia, North Dakota, Montana and Arkansas, moved to pass bills this session to ban “foreign adversaries” and foreign entities—specifically China—from buying farmland.
In May, Florida’s Governor Rod DeSantis signed a bill prohibiting most citizens from “foreign countries of concern” from purchasing land on or within 10 miles of any “military installation or critical infrastructure facility,” including seaports, airports and power plants. A bill was also signed into law, banning internet applications like TikTok on Florida government devices over fears of the ever-growing Chinese influence.
“Today, Florida makes it very clear: We don’t want the (Chinese Communist Party) in the Sunshine State. We want to maintain this as the ‘Free State of Florida.’ That’s exactly what these bills are doing,” DeSantis said at the time.
Foreign ownership of U.S. agricultural land doubled from 2009 to 2019, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) records. Despite the deepening concern over China’s influence, of U.S. agricultural land owned by Chinese interests is less than three-hundredths of 1%. Some feel lawmakers are moving to act quickly without little to no supporting evidence.
“I think there’s a good reason to want to keep control of strategic interests in one’s own country … but these bills about farmland, these bills about just property in general, to me, it’s transparent that they’re rooted in racism and xenophobia again because we’ve seen this before. It really isn’t the first time,” Nancy Qian, a professor of economics at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management who has researched U.S. exclusion laws, told CNN.
Former President Trump vowed to ban Chinese investors from buying U.S. farmland and other critical infrastructure and force sales of their current holdings if he retakes the White House.
“China has been spending trillions of dollars to take over the crown jewels of the United States’s economy,” Trump said in a campaign video in January. “To protect our country, we need to enact aggressive new restrictions on Chinese ownership of any vital infrastructure in the United States, including energy, technology, telecommunications, farmland, natural resources, medical supplies and other strategic national assets.”