China's effort to unseat America as the world's economic superpower has a new tactic: It has bought up more than 200,000 acres of U.S. farmland. And while there is bipartisan support for legislation to slow down Beijing's acquisitions, Democrats have added a new wrinkle.
Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-Wash.), who is leading the legislative charge, says congressional Democrats have removed all references to the communist government of China in an amendment to an agricultural spending bill that originally prevented the Chinese Communist Party's purchase of American farmland.
"[O]ver the last decade, we've seen a huge increase in the acquisition of these kinds of assets — farming in particular — by the People's Republic of China," he said. "And that, to me, is just a direction that, while we can, we should do all we can to stop."
With China purchasing the United States' agricultural assets and becoming more ingrained in the U.S. economy, America might eventually "become dependent on Communist China for our agricultural production," Newhouse warned. "We don't want that to happen. We want to stop that in its tracks."
Only six states have agricultural restrictions on China, Newhouse said, "so this is something that I think is desperately needed in our country to prevent China, Communist China, from taking over our agricultural industry."
Newhouse added that the House Committee on Appropriations adopted the amendment through a unanimous voice vote, which is rare for two reasons: being unanimous and passing an amendment from the minority party.
"I think that that tells us that there's concern across the board [over] the direction that people see China taking," he said, adding that neither political party wants to see China taking over America's critical assets, like it has with other countries.
Democrats want to include North Korea, Iran, and Russia in addition to China in the amendment, Newhouse said. But North Korea has no money to buy farmland in the U.S., and the other countries haven't purchased any land in recent years, unlike China.
"China's got almost 200,000 acres right now in the United States," he explained. "Russia has, I think, 800." Newhouse believes Iran has "just around 2,000, you know, a mere percentage of what China has. And the thing is, over the last couple decades, none of those countries have been buying to any degree.
"China, on the other hand, over the last decade, has been increasing dramatically — 10 times the purchases of what they had a decade ago."
New York Democrat Rep. Grace Meng claimed that Newhouse's amendment would "perpetuate already rising anti-Asian hate," which caused Newhouse to erase all mention of Chinese nationals in the legislation. Still, he said, the Democrats seem to be making it more anti-Asian by not focusing on the Chinese Communist government.
"The changes the Democrats are making, I think it's going to water down the amendment, take the focus off of China, and it's not going to be nearly as impactful," Newhouse noted. "And get this, they removed any reference to the communist government. If the goal was to make it less anti-Asian, they just, I think, narrowed it to where people are going to think about individuals and not the government."
American politicians tend to not plan far into the future, since House terms are two years long and Senate terms are six years, Newhouse said. Meanwhile, the Chinese government is planning "100 years in advance" and does "slow, steady, determined, intentional work" until they eventually have the manufacturing capability of any field they pursue, the congressman remarked.