This week, U.S. fighter jets shot down a suspected Chinese surveillance balloon that was traveling for several days through northern U.S. states’ air space. The pentagon has since reported they believe a third Chinese high-altitude surveillance balloon is traveling somewhere just outside the U.S. border. China’s foreign ministry released a statement claiming the object was a scientific civilian balloon that was blown off course but officials worry that the balloon was collecting intel on U.S. ICBMs (intercontinental ballistic missiles). This pentation of China’s presence in the U.S. is not a new phenomenon.
Chinese firms have expanded their presence in American agriculture over the last decade by purchasing farmland and major agribusinesses. It has been reported that this influx is largely a result of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, a global infrastructure development strategy adopted by the Chinese government in 2013, to invest in nearly 150 countries and international organizations. However, in 2018 the USDA reported that at China’s agricultural investments in other nations had grown more than tenfold since 2009. By 2020, 192,000 agricultural acres in the U.S., with a worth of $1.9 billion, was owned by Chinese investors.
In a defense authorization bill, released in 2015 by House Armed Services Committee chairman Rep. Howard P. McKeon, R-Calif., is a warning that foreign adversaries and businesses may be buying up land near military bases and training facilities in order to collect information on U.S. military tactics and technologies.
“Foreign-controlled entities may be acquiring property near critical military assets, installations and training facilities with the intent to monitor our activities,” the markup of the bill states. “As a result of some recent transactions, entities controlled by foreign interests have acquired access to onshore and offshore properties within proximity of Department of Defense facilities, ranges and sensitive operating areas.”
Since 2016, former Chinese PLA General Sun Guangxin has spent spent an estimated $110 million buying up land in Texas’ Val Verde County. The land, reported to host a wind farm project, is alarmingly close to Laughlin Air Force Base in Del Rio, Texas.
The most recent purchase of concern was from a Chinese company, Fufeng Group, who acquired 300 acres in North Dakota for $2.6 million with intent to establish a milling plant. This lands close proximity to Grand Forks Air Base quickly became a question of a national security risk.
According to USDA reports, Chinese investors’ holdings of U.S. agricultural land surged from 13,720 acres in 2010 to 352,140 acres in 2020. The most recent report on foreign landholding through December 31, 2020 shows foreign investors now hold an interest in nearly 37.6 million acres of agricultural land in the U.S.
More recently, FBI director Christopher Wray said he was deeply concerned about the Chinese government setting up unauthorized “police stations” in U.S. cities.
The topic arose at a Senate Homeland Security Committee hearing when Senator Rick Scott said, “It’s been reported that the Chinese Communist Party is operating police stations in the United States in an effort to surveil Chinese dissidents… Seems obvious the U.S. shouldn’t allow its most significant geopolitical rival, an oppressive Communist regime, to establish police stations in the U.S. What authority or jurisdiction does the CCP have in the U.S.?”
“I’m very concerned about this,” Wray responded. “We are aware of the existence of these stations.”
Wray added there have been multiple imputations related to the Chinese government “engaging in uncoordinated law, law enforcement action, right here in the United States, harassing, stalking, surveilling, blackmailing people who they just don’t like or who disagree with the Xi regime.”
Earlier this year, the Dutch government announced it was investigating reports that Chinese police forces illegally opened at least two stations in the Netherlands and were using them to keep tabs on Chinese dissidents.
China’s Embassy in Washington acknowledged the existence of the sites but denied having anything to do with police surveillance; instead, they insisted they were volunteer-run sites operating to help Chinese citizens renew documents.
It seems China’s presence is ever growing in the U.S. At what point do we put an end on making this “geopolitical rival” our neighbor?