What is China doing? First, they declare the goal of world dominance, then ramp up military spending, ICBM deployments, militarize artificial islands, test space weapons, a hypersonic weapon, swamp Hong Kong, threaten Taiwan, spread a deadly virus, lie about that, manipulate world trade, traffic fentanyl, and create Western reliance. Now what?
China’s latest move is edging toward control of food production by buying up and dominating farmland. This is not just a passing fancy, something the West can ignore. The issue is key.
Facts are arresting, yet one hears nothing from Congress or Biden on this. Beyond seeking to monopolize the production of semiconductors, supply chains, and minerals, China is creating a reliance on the food supply. How?
China’s overseas direct investment in “food-producing acreage” has grown tenfold in ten years. By 2020, China had amassed 35.2 million acres, 2.7 percent of US farmland. China’s food-producing acreage grew an average of 2.3 million acres per year since 2015, even as China bought food producers in America’s Heartland. See, e.g., Foreign Purchases of U.S. Agricultural Land: Facts, Figures, and an Assessment of Real Threats; Foreign Holdings of U.S. Agricultural Land; Despite holding little US land, China remains focus of foreign ownership discussion.
As the Chinese-origin pandemic has raged and meat availability in the US hit snags, China shipped US production of pork to China, away from the US. Is that a big deal? In one sense, no, in another absolutely. It signals a new vulnerability – a national security issue.
Experts say, even as China gobbles up food production globally, the issue is not imminent but foreboding. Chinese food control is not yet a threat, but that could change. We are dependent on many areas, such as pharmaceuticals. Food could be the next chokepoint.
Today, China controls 191,652 acres of US farmland, worth over $1.8 billion. Legislation is being lofted to reduce US dependence on China for our food, but China is on a tear. See, e.g., China is Coming for American Farms | Opinion.
One bill would bar businesses owned by the Chinese government from buying US farmland and participating in USDA programs. Bipartisan, it cleared the House in 2021, part of the funding for USDA. The bill is bicameral, led by Dan Newhouse (R-Wash) and Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA). Other bills are beginning to emerge. See, e.g., Lawmakers Seek to Curb Chinese Ownership of US Farmland.
The main point is this. The tiger’s stripes do not change, nor do China’s intentions. They vector to security, creating a threat to the security of others, now even food security. A reason to panic? No. Reason to stay vigilant – and focused on – Communist China’s actions and intentions? Yes.