Spotlight on China

Published 12:01 pm Wednesday, March 20, 2024

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China seems a long way off: travel west, and it’s more than 7,500 miles to Shanghai, the Chinese city closest to the US; travel east, and it’s almost twice that far. Yet in a July 2023 poll conducted by the Pew Research Center, 50 percent of Americans named China as the foreign power that poses “the greatest threat to the US.” Russia, which ranked second, was named as the greatest threat by only 17 percent. Closer to home, in April 2023, the House of Representatives of the North Carolina General Assembly passed a bill that would ban China and other “adversarial foreign governments” from buying farmland in North Carolina. In passing the bill, the House took notice that Chinese interests currently own 380,000 acres of farmland in the US. During 2023, 12 states in the US fully enacted laws that ban Chinese ownership of their agricultural lands, including Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Louisiana, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah, and Virginia.

Why would China want to own substantial amounts of farmland in the US? One reason may be that China is a net importer of food and merely wishes to ensure a supply of agricultural commodities to protect itself. A less benign reason may be that the Chinese wish to plant seed varieties that actually reduce yield of crops on adjoining land they do not control—in other words, to inhibit food production in the US. Either theory raises serious questions about China’s motives in acquiring US farmland.

For context in assessing China’s motives in its dealings with the US economy, note that China’s Premier Xi Jinping in September 2018 declared the start of a new “Thirty Years War” with the US, a fact not generally reported in the US press. This reference to the Thirty Years War is no accident: that European war ended with the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648 and is the foundation of the legal system that has defined the international order ever since. In other words, China seeks to impose a new world order in which it is the leading power. Evidence of China’s intentions can be found in its Belt and Road Initiative (“BRI”), declared in 2013, which seeks to bring all the countries of Asia, Africa, and Europe—or 40 percent of the global economy—under China’s control through a network of highways and related infrastructure constructed by the Chinese and financed with debt issued by China’s government-controlled banks. In recent years, China has also worked hard to supplant the US Dollar in international trade, an effort that is already well established in the trade among the so-called “BRIC” nations—Brazil, Russia, India, and China—which together currently represent 18 percent of global trade but 42 percent of world population; in the past year, the Chinese yuan has been imposed as the payment currency on Chinese oil purchases from the Middle East countries and Russia.

Under the circumstances, readers may want to consider writing their senator in the North Carolina Senate—in Beaufort County that is Jim Perry—and urge that he support passage of the House bill banning Chinese land acquisition in North Carolina, which has been languishing in the Senate since April of last year. The 2024 session of the North Carolina General Assembly runs from April 24 to July 31.

Chocowinity resident and author Lloyd Richardson, a lawyer with global clients for more than 30 years, has held diplomatic posts abroad and at the State Department, where his last assignment was as staff assistant to the Director of the Secretary of State’s Policy Planning Staff.