Lankford: Loophole on China Snapping Up U.S. Land Must Be Closed
In the wake of national security concerns over Chinese-owned companies purchasing U.S. land near military bases and other critical infrastructure, Senator James Lankford (R-Okla.) has introduced a bill that would restrict adversarial countries like China from being able to acquire the strategic land.
On “Washington Watch with Tony Perkins” Wednesday, Lankford outlined the scope of the controversy.
“It’s a problem nationwide because the Chinese are very specific in the land that they’re actually going after,” he explained. “There’s already a law that you can’t buy within a mile of a military installation. But the problem is that they’ll buy just outside that, or they’ll buy land near … or land around our critical infrastructure [that provide] internet connections, [like] cell towers.”
Last year, reports surfaced revealing that not only has China attempted to purchase land near cell towers, they have also already sold thousands of pieces of Chinese-made Huawei equipment to American internet service providers, which have installed the equipment on cell towers in close proximity to military bases across the rural Midwest. While some experts say it is difficult to prove whether sensitive military data has been stolen by the Chinese equipment, a federal investigation into the matter is currently ongoing.
Alarmingly, multiple government sources told CNN “there’s no question the Huawei equipment has the ability to intercept not only commercial cell traffic but also the highly restricted airwaves used by the military and disrupt critical US Strategic Command communications, giving the Chinese government a potential window into America’s nuclear arsenal.”
Espionage is far from the only concern about Chinese land-buying habits, according to Lankford.
“In Oklahoma, Chinese criminal organizations are buying up land and then raising marijuana that they can actually ship across the entire country,” he explained. “[They] are literally trafficking people into the state, trafficking prostitutes as well as labor to be able to come into the state and put up armed guards around their grow facilities. It’s a remarkable transition where the Chinese are being exceptionally aggressive to basically exploit our law and the lack of oversight in that area.”
Lankford went on to observe that Chinese buyers are currently exploiting a loophole in U.S. laws governing international foreign investments.
“Chinese companies, Russian companies, Iranian companies, and North Korean companies — if they come in, they’re not coming because they have nowhere else to invest,” he noted. “They have a very specific reason to try to get onto our soil. And as any farmer or rancher will tell you, there’s a limited supply of some things. And top of that list is land. … The last time I was on the southern border in El Paso, we watched them actually arrest two Chinese nationals coming across the border … More and more Chinese citizens are crossing our border illegally … and then Chinese owners [are] actually buying property here.”
In order to address the problem, Lankford is introducing the Soil Act. “[It] closes this loophole about international purchasing,” he explained. “If you don’t have some kind of connection, what’s called the CFIUS [Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States] process, to get some kind of approval, you can’t do it. … It focuses specifically on China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea.”
Lankford reported that so far, his bill is getting support from both sides of the aisle. “Most everyone, Democrat and Republican, are nodding their head and saying this is something we need to be able to handle,” he said.
Dan Hart is senior editor at The Washington Stand.