Alarms went off in Washington when the Fufeng Group, a Chinese agricultural company, bought 300 acres of land and set up a milling plant last spring in Grand Forks, N.D. The plant is a 20-minute drive from an Air Force base that, according to North Dakota Sen. John Hoeven, hosts a space mission that “will form the backbone of U.S. military communications across the globe.”
The deal shouldn’t have taken the federal government by surprise. U.S. Department of Agriculture data show that Chinese ownership of U.S. farmland leapt more than 20-fold in a decade, from $81 million in 2010 to $1.8 billion in 2020. Beijing hasn’t outlined a strategy, but large-scale state backing for these investments indicates there is one. In 2013 the government-owned Bank of China loaned $4 billion to Hong Kong-headquartered WH Group, the world’s largest pork producer, to buy Virginia’s Smithfield Foods. WH now controls much of the U.S. pork supply and revenue because of the deal.