China buys land next to US military bases

chine buys lands next to military bases

Increased concerns about Chinese land purchases near US military bases and national security implications.

The United States is stepping up surveillance of Chinese land purchases near military bases, fearing national security risks and espionage. President Biden banned a Chinese company near Warren Air Force Base. From 2020 to 2022, Chinese investors dominated foreign land deals, drawing increased attention from federal and state authorities. Experts are calling for better coordination to monitor these purchases.

Background and initial concerns

In recent years, land purchases by Chinese entities near US military bases have raised growing concerns about national security and potential espionage. President Joe Biden issued an executive order in May to shut down MineOne Partners Ltd, a Chinese company located near Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming. This action reflects the seriousness of the US government’s concerns about Chinese influence in strategic areas.

Between 2020 and 2022, Chinese investors carried out the largest number of land transactions among foreign nationals. This trend has prompted federal and state authorities to step up their vigilance. For example, Texas and North Carolina are among the states where Chinese investment in farmland and other property has been particularly significant. The implications of these purchases go beyond mere land ownership, encompassing strategic and national security aspects.

Weaknesses identified and GAO recommendations

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has identified weaknesses in the tracking of foreign land purchases, highlighting the need for better coordination and more effective data sharing among federal agencies. At a congressional hearing, lawmakers expressed concern about Beijing’s efforts to undermine US security. They highlighted the threat posed by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in this context.

For example, the GAO has recommended the establishment of a centralised system for tracking foreign land transactions, to enable more proactive monitoring and rapid response to suspicious transactions. This centralised approach would also facilitate coordination between different agencies, such as the Department of Defense and the Department of the Treasury, for a more comprehensive analysis of the risks associated with these purchases.

chine buys lands next to military bases

Cybersecurity and espionage threats

Chinese telecoms companies installing mobile phone towers near military bases have also raised suspicions of eavesdropping. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has warned that Chinese hackers could be preparing potential cyber attacks. This threat is all the more worrying given that critical communications infrastructures could be vulnerable to infiltration and sabotage.

For example, in 2020, Huawei equipment installed near military bases was suspected of collecting sensitive data. This equipment could theoretically intercept crucial military communications, jeopardising national security. This has led to calls for a holistic government approach to countering CCP threats, including the suggestion that oversight of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) be transferred from the Treasury Department to the Defense Department.

Responses and actions at state level

Several states have taken steps to prohibit foreign adversaries from owning land near military installations. Laws have been passed to restrict foreign ownership of land near sensitive sites. For example, Texas implemented severe restrictions after land purchases near Laughlin Air Force Base, and North Dakota took similar action in response to transactions near Grand Forks Air Force Base.

These state actions illustrate a proactive response to perceived risks. For example, in 2021, Texas banned companies linked to foreign governments deemed hostile from purchasing critical infrastructure, a measure aimed primarily at China. These laws are designed to protect not only military installations, but also other critical infrastructure, such as power grids and water distribution systems.

CFIUS powers extended

The federal government has extended the powers of CFIUS to include more sensitive military sites within its oversight perimeter. CFIUS examines transactions that could threaten national security, and this extension of its powers means that real estate transactions near military bases and other critical installations can be monitored more closely.

For example, CFIUS now has the ability to intervene in transactions involving properties located within a 160-kilometre radius of certain military installations. This extension is intended to prevent acquisitions that could enable foreign entities to gather sensitive information or disrupt military operations.

National security implications and consequences

Concerns about espionage, theft of intellectual property and potential sabotage of the U.S. food supply underscore the need for vigilant oversight of foreign land purchases near critical infrastructure. The presence of foreign landowners near military bases could facilitate espionage or sabotage in times of crisis.

For example, access to agricultural land near military bases could enable malicious actors to disrupt food supplies in times of conflict. In addition, the presence of foreign landowners in strategic areas could complicate defence and internal security operations in the event of a crisis.

Increased scrutiny of Chinese land purchases near US military bases reflects a growing awareness of national security risks. Coordinated actions at the federal and state levels, as well as the expansion of CFIUS’ powers, are crucial measures to protect US critical infrastructure. These efforts must continue to ensure adequate protection against potential threats posed by foreign investment in strategically sensitive areas.

War Wings Daily is an independant magazine.