US military has raised concerns about Chinese firms buying land near American military bases citing the practice as a potential pattern of sub-national surveillance and espionage by the Beijing-linked firms. The American Military News report stated that several China-based firms bought or have begun the process of buying large plots of American land in proximity to key US military bases in recent years.
A China-based company, Fufeng Group is one of the companies which purchased 300 acres of farmland near Grand Forks, North Dakota, a rural area that lies about an hour and a half long drive from the US-Canada border.
A report released in May by the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission (USCC) stated that the new Fufeng Group mill would be on a 370-acre plot of land located about 20 kilometers from the Grand Forks Air Force Base. The report further stated that the purchase of land by the Chinese firm could be “particularly convenient for monitoring air traffic flows in and out of the base, among other security-related concerns.”
Chinese actions ring alarm bells in the US
Alarmed by the development after the Chinese firm bought the land near US Air Force Base, 130 lawmakers from the United States requested the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to investigate and find out the extent of and trends in foreign investment in agricultural land.
Through the letter to the GAO, the lawmakers also requested a review of whether current standards for filing accurately capture the origin of the investment, a Nikkei Asia report stated. Moreover, this is not the first time a Chinese firm has shown interest in the purchase of land in proximity to a US Air Force base. Prior to Fufeng Group, another Chinese firm called Guanghui Energy Company Ltd had attempted to buy around 140,000 acres of land located about 112 kilometers from the Laughlin Air Force Base. The Chinese Firm reportedly wanted to build a massive wind farm known as the Blue Hills Wind Project, as per the American Military News report.
The USAF base houses some of America’s top intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities, states the American Military News. Moreover, another major cause of concern keeping in mind the defence capabilities and security of the US military technology is the fact that the base is home to the 319th Reconnaissance Wing, which is one of the major operators of the RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned aerial reconnaissance vehicles. The base is also set to host a new space networking centre which will help facilitate US military communications across the globe.
Guanghui Energy Company is owned by Sun Guangxin, a Chinese billionaire who reportedly has ties to the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP), stated the American Military News. Moreover, the efforts by Sun Guangxin’s company to buy up land near the Laughlin Air Force Base caught the attention of both state and federal lawmakers.
Texas state house lawmakers passed legislation last year, known as the “Lone Star Infrastructure Protection Act”. It bans all contracts or agreements in Texas with foreign-owned companies related to critical infrastructure in Texas.