Is Joe Biden weak on China? Millions of Americans certainly think so.
With TikTok and WeChat, two spy tools favored by the Chinese regime, still operating in the U.S., President Biden could certainly do more to combat the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
Now, though, according to a recent Politico report, the Biden administration has woken up to the threat posed by Beijing. Action, it seems, will be taken.
Ryan McCrimmon, the author of the piece, claims that the “push to drain China’s influence from the U.S. economy” has reached America’s farmland. Congressional lawmakers “from both parties” are now considering measures “to crack down on foreign purchases of prime agricultural real estate.”
With Chinese influence, a “push”—or, more specifically, a shove—is most definitely needed.
Beijing’s Big Land Grab
Since 2009, the CCP has purchased enormous amounts of farmland around the world. In fact, over the last decade, spending has increased tenfold, from $300 million to $3 billion. This, of course, is highly strategic. With land comes influence, and with influence comes greater levels of political capital.
In the Politico article, McCrimmon quotes Rep. Dan Newhouse as saying that “the current trend in the U.S. is leading us toward the creation of a Chinese-owned agricultural land monopoly.” This current, deeply worrying trend can be seen in other countries around the world. In 2016, a major Chinese company, Hongyang Group, acquired hundreds of hectares of farmland in central France. This purchase, according to reports, went unchecked by French authorities.
As the journalist Marine Jovert wrote at the time, the “reaction of the French National Federation of Land Management and Rural Development Agencies (SAFER) was simple outrage.” In a press release, the organization stated, rather bluntly: “It is possible to buy 1,700 hectares of cereal farmland in France unchecked!” Jovert also mentions Emmanuel Hyest, the president of SAFER (the French regulatory body responsible for overseeing land acquisitions), and the fact that he openly admitted to not knowing “what sort of activity” Hongyang was engaged in.
Not content with the U.S. and France, the CCP has also been busy acquiring land in Caribbean and Latin American nations. Jamaica, in particular, has been a major “beneficiary” of Beijing-backed investments. In fact, from Brazil to Botswana, the CCP has been busy—and continues to busy itself—buying up enormous amounts of land.
What Does China Want?
The acquisition of American farmland by the Chinese has been occurring for years. In 2013, WH Group, a Chinese company, bought Smithfield Foods. By acquiring the company, WH Group also acquired close to 150,000 acres of prime farmland.
In 2019, six years after the acquisition, NPR interviewed Angela Huffmann, a lifelong farmer from Wyandot County, Ohio. She 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.” A deflated-sounding Huffman continues, saying that this is “basically extracting the wealth out of the community.”
The acquisition of land is part of a much broader plan. As Clara Ferreira Marques wrote in the Japan Times last year, “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. Considering more countries attended President Xi Jinping’s 2018 African summit than the U.N. General Assembly held a few weeks later, there’s plenty to build on.” Well, with Tedros Adhanom, whom the CCP appears to have bought, the mission to secure “a friendly one” at the WHO has already been accomplished.
Although the purchasing of land is indeed strategic, it is also necessary. Much has been made about China’s declining birth rates, but it’s important to remember that the country’s population is yet to peak. With close to 20 percent of the world’s population, how is China supposed to feed its people with only 8.5 percent of the world’s arable land? This is an existential question for the CCP. With declining employment opportunities and higher costs of living, a crop crisis could push the country to a tipping point. A decade ago, in Egypt and Tunisia, food shortages sparked revolutions. Hungry people are dangerous people. Hunger is what topples tyrannical regimes. The CCP is all too aware of this, meaning it will do whatever it takes to feed its people.
Lie, Steal, Cheat
In 2019, the Washington Examiner published an interesting interview with Senator Tom Cotton. The interview focused heavily on China’s penchant for intellectual property theft, with the outspoken politician warning readers that espionage tactics were being used “to steal modern techniques and strategies of growing crops from places like Arkansas.” That same year, Christopher Wray, the current director of the FBI, echoed Cotton’s warnings: “Put plainly, China seems determined to steal its way up the economic ladder, at our expense.” 2019 was an eventful year, with a federal grand jury in St. Louis indicting Haitao Xiang, a former Monsanto researcher. According to Chemical & Engineering News, “Xiang was accused of stealing predictive algorithms with the intention of handing them over to a Chinese government research institute.”
The attempted theft, I argue, can be linked with the “Made in China 2025” initiative, which aims to make China the dominant player in areas like AI and agriculture. To achieve this goal, the Chinese regime is prepared to do whatever it takes—lie, steal, cheat. If in doubt, please consider the recent Microsoft hack, which the Chinese regime vehemently denies playing any part in. The evidence, however, suggests otherwise. The CCP’s denial was pathetic, but it was also understandable.
The Biden administration response to the attack was also pathetic, and in many ways, understandable. As a NY Post headline put it rather succinctly, “Biden’s fury at Chinese cyberattacks prompts him to…issue a statement (Seriously).” If Joe Biden, a man who mixes up Libya and Syria, continuously slurs his words, and has a fetish for whispering into microphones, wants us to believe that he can still pass the “should I put my hand on a hot stove test?” action against Chinese interference must be taken.
With China’s population still growing, this means more mouths to feed. China is not producing enough grains to feed its animals or its people. With less and less land for domestic agriculture, the CCP is becoming increasingly desperate, hence the desire to acquire American farmland (and French, Brazilian, Colombian, Ethiopian, Jamaican, etc.).
Right now, in the United States, only six states have laws forbidding foreign ownership of land. The CCP, no doubt, is fully aware of this rather alarming fact. The U.S. also happens to have almost 18 percent of the world’s arable land, another fact that has not escaped the attention of the CCP. Millions of Americans think President Biden is weak on China, and unless he takes action to protect the physical country from those who would buy it up and extract its bounty, millions more will soon feel the same.
John Mac Ghlionn is a researcher and essayist. His work has been published by the likes of bitcoin magazine, New York Post, South China Morning Post, and the Sydney Morning Herald.