With Communist China stepping up its spying against America –– including, it seems, by high-altitude balloon — Congress is taking a new look at China’s purchases of American agricultural lands. A bill, the Promoting Agriculture Safeguards and Security Act, which died in the last Congress, is getting a new push by Congresswoman Elise Stefanik.
It is curious as to why the previous Congress had left the legislation for dead –– and left American national security so unabashedly exposed. The PASS Act would prevent China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea from investing in or acquiring certain American agricultural businesses and lands, and take other measures to protect America.
It would add the Secretary of Agriculture as a standing member of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, a Treasury-led taskforce charged with assessing the security implications of foreign investments. It would expand the committee’s jurisdiction over agricultural transactions. It would require the president to report to Congress on any waivers granted.
Fufeng’s $700 million plan has since come under review and could yet be rescinded. In any event, it is not the only one, nor is America the only target of Beijing’s shopping spree. Around the world between 2011 and 2020, Beijing acquired 16 million acres devoted to agriculture, forestry, and mining. Most is in Africa and Southeast Asia.
That acreage number dwarfs the combined four million acres held by America, Great Britain, and Japan. In America, Chinese land ownership jumped more than twenty-fold in a decade, to $1.8 billion in 2020 from $81 million in 2010. In 2021 Beijing owned 0.9 percent of all foreign-held American farmland. That’s 0.9 percent too much.
China has not articulated a strategy for these purchases. Yet with just seven percent of the world’s arable land and an economy that has been driven to rely more heavily on food imports –– to say nothing of the personal paranoia feigned by President Xi in respect of security –– the objective is clear.