Millions of Americans believe that President Joe Biden is weak on China. As I write this, spy tools favored by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) are still operating in the United States. The “weak on China” criticism is a fair one, and Biden could certainly do more to combat the threat from China.
However, according to a recent piece published in Politico, the Biden administration is fed up with Chinese interference. Action, we’re assured, will be taken.
The author of the piece, Ryan McCrimmon, discusses the administration’s desire “to drain” China’s ever-increasing “influence from the U.S. economy.” More specifically, there is a deep desire to remove this “influence” from America’s farmland. While bipartisan agreement is a rarity, congressional lawmakers “from both parties” are in agreement. Something must be done. They are now working on measures “to crack down on foreign purchases of prime agricultural real estate.”
The move is a welcome one, but it should have come a long time ago. After all, the Chinese regime has been buying up American farmland for years.
Beijing’s Buying Spree
Twelve years ago, the CCP began purchasing huge swaths of farmland around the world. In the space of seven years, from 2009 to 2016, spending increased tenfold, to $3 billion from $300 million. One needn’t be a high-level, political strategist to figure out why the CCP is buying up so much land. In the aforementioned Politico article, the author quotes Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-Wash.), who recently issued a rather troubling statement: if things don’t change soon, across America, we can expect to see “the creation of a Chinese-owned agricultural land monopoly.” The American problem is, in fact, a worldwide one. In 2016, for example, Hongyang Group, a major Chinese company, bought thousands of acres of farmland in central France. The purchase, rather absurdly, went completely unchecked by French authorities.
As French journalist Marine Jobert noted, when Emmanuel Hyest, the president of SAFER (the French regulatory body responsible for overseeing all things land-related), was asked why the Chinese firm was purchasing the land, he admitted to not knowing “what sort of activity” Hongyang was engaged in. France, though, is just the tip of the iceberg, as the CCP has acquired enormous amounts of land in the Caribbean and Latin American nations. Jamaica appears to be one of the biggest “beneficiaries” of Beijing-backed investments.
What Does the Chinese Regime Actually Want?
In 2013, WH Group, a huge Chinese company, bought Smithfield Foods, a major U.S. pork producer. With the purchase, WH Group also acquired 146,000 acres of prime farmland. Six years after the suspicious acquisition, NPR interviewed a sixth-generation farmer from the region. The interviewee, Angela Huffman, obviously upset, had this to say: “Right out my back door here, Chinese-owned Smithfield Foods, the largest pork producer in the world, has recently bought out a couple grain elevators.” The company, she argued, excels at “extracting the wealth out of the community.” Huffman appears to be correct.
As the author Deborah J. Comstock has outlined in great detail, any profits earned by Chinese firms bypass “the American commodities markets” and are instead funneled straight back to China.
The Chinese regime’s acquisition of so much land must be viewed through a broader lens. In a piece for The Japan Times, Clara Ferreira Marques writes, “The real great game is about securing a Chinese candidate at the head of the Food and Agriculture Organization; getting a friendly one at the World Health Organization; and landing the country’s first overseas military base.”
With Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, a man who appears to have very close ties to the CCP, heading the WHO, Xi Jinping has accomplished one of these three goals.
While the purchasing of land by China is indeed strategic, it’s also necessary. Numerous articles have been written about China’s falling fertility rates, but the country’s population has yet to peak. With 18.5 percent of the world’s population, and only 8.5 percent of the world’s arable land, China is facing an existential crisis. A decade ago, in Egypt and Tunisia, food shortages caused chaos. People took to the streets, violence ensued, and lives were lost. Hungry people are desperate people, and desperate people are capable of desperate things.
The CCP, no doubt, is all too aware of this fact. Imagine Hong Kong-style riots across the land. This isn’t outside the realm of possibility, and the CCP knows this only too well.
So, one asks, what can be done? Action must be taken. In response to the recent Microsoft hack, which the Chinese regime, rather unconvincingly, denied orchestrating, the Biden administration did nothing but issue a weak statement. Chinese interference requires a strong response from America’s leaders. Across the country, only six states have laws in place that forbid “foreign” ownership of farmland. Considering America has almost 18 percent of the world’s arable land, and considering China is desperately buying up land, President Biden must take action now. With China, harshly worded statements won’t work. They never have, and they never will.
John Mac Ghlionn is a researcher and essayist. His work has been published by the likes of The New York Post, Sydney Morning Herald, The American Conservative, National Review, The Public Discourse, and other respectable outlets. He’s also a columnist at Cointelegraph.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.