Texas Bill to Ban Foreign Land Purchases
USAgNet - 02/01/2023
A Texas bill to ban citizens and foreign entities tied to China, Iran, North Korea and Russia from buying Texas land highlights a potential national security vulnerability. The fix, however, is better left to Washington than Austin.
Senate Bill 147 filed by state Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, would prohibit the purchase or acquisition of property by a “governmental entity” or a company headquartered in or “directly or indirectly controlled” by a government of China, Iran, North Korea, or Russia. The measure, which Gov. Greg Abbott has signaled he would sign into law if it reaches his desk, also would prohibit citizens of those nations from owning land in Texas.
Iran, Russia, North Korea and China are authoritarian nations that don’t play by the rules, so we shed no tears for questioning their motives. The first three are active threats. The jury is out on China.
Unlike the other countries, China is a major trade partner, a strategic competitor and a potential military threat. While it’s easy to sympathize with Kolkhorst’s concerns, the bill fails to account for the complicated nature of our relationship with China and Chinese companies.
Several Democratic lawmakers have railed against Kolkhorst’s bill as racist, comparing it to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 that banned Chinese immigration. That’s unfair and glosses over the potential national security risks Chinese land purchases represent. It doesn’t take a conspiracist to wonder why companies and individuals from a rival nation are buying up land in strategic areas of our state.
Globally, China has weaponized economic investment through its Belt and Road initiative and is using its economic power to coerce and exploit developing nations. It has pirated U.S. trade secrets, innovation, intellectual property, and personal and corporate data. And more recently, the Chinese government and businessmen have purchased land near military bases and critical infrastructure, including here in Texas.
The most notable attempt here involved the purchase of farmland in Val Verde County near Laughlin Air Force Base with the apparent goal of attaching a wind turbine to Texas’ electricity grid. Overall, foreign ownership of farmland across the United States ballooned 60% between 2009 and 2019.
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