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Indiana Residents Fight State Officials on Chinese Land Ownership

The siren song of ‘global economic development’ brings profound national security concerns.

A grassroots movement to prevent Chinese ownership of American farmland is butting heads with “global economy” development advocates in state governments. Nowhere is this more pronounced at the moment than in Indiana.

“A bill to slightly limit foreign adversaries’ ownership of Indiana land revealed a state agency is currently planning 11 business deals with Chinese companies worth an estimated $14.4 billion,” The Federalist reported March 8. “The Indiana Economic Development Corporation, however, wouldn’t release to The Federalist the names or locations of these foreign-owned ventures.”

Hush-Hush in the Hoosier State

The secrecy is alarming, given the grave national security concerns at stake.

Republican state Sen. Jean Leising says “state lawmakers tell her the IEDC even uses ‘code names’ for its foreign business deals to preserve secrecy until they’re completed,” the news site relates. “The IEDC will not even release basic information about any of these deals to the state lawmakers who give the IEDC billions in tax dollars.”

What is the Indiana Economic Development Corporation?

“The IEDC is a ‘public-private partnership’ chaired by lame-duck Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb and controlled by the state’s secretary of commerce, a member of Holcomb’s cabinet,” The Federalist notes. “The governor appoints all of the IEDC’s 14-member board. In 2022, the IEDC sponsored Holcomb’s travel to Davos, Switzerland to speak at the World Economic Forum about his efforts to attract foreign companies to Indiana.”

Spurred by local outrage, Indiana state legislators have moved to pass a bill to restrict the sale of farmland to “foreign adversaries.”

“House Bill 1183 would prohibit entities or people from six ‘adversarial countries’ – a list that the US Department of Commerce defines as Russia, China, North Korea, Iran, Cuba and Venezuela – from owning or leasing Hoosier farmland along with mineral, riparian or water rights,” The Indiana Capital Chronicle reports. “Those same groups would also not be permitted to purchase, lease or acquire land within ten miles of a military installation.”

That last sentence already marks a watering-down of efforts to protect Indiana natural resources from hostile foreign ownership. The bill passed the state House unanimously only to be amended in the upper chamber.

“Senators opted to adopt two changes, one allowing dual citizens to own land – of the six countries, the United States only has dual citizenship with Russia — as well as reaffirming the 10-mile radius, rather than the previously proposed 50-mile radius, around military installations,” The Capital Chronicle details.

The measure passed the full General Assembly on March 8 and now awaits Holcomb’s signature. But what about those pending deals?

Bill supporters had to fight against proposed exemptions for foreign companies eager to do business in Indiana. These would be your 11 mysterious Chinese entities. It again highlights the divide between the fears of local citizens and the machinations of “economic development” agencies like the IEDC.

Grasping for Regime Dollars

A major Chinese agricultural corporation involved in the Indiana dispute was rebuffed in North Dakota in 2023 mainly due to on-the-ground opposition by vocal local citizens.

GettyImages-1125011274 (1) China

(Photo by Sandy Li/South China Morning Post via Getty Images)

“The Chinese company trying to locate to Kingsbury [Indiana], Fufeng Group, was… prevented from building an agricultural processing plant 12 miles from the Grand Forks Air Force Base in North Dakota,” The Capital Chronicle writes. “Resident outcry prompted a federal review, which came out against Fufeng ownership and pushed the Grand Forks City Council to abandon the project.”

“The Chinese-owned Fufeng Group, which describes itself as an ‘internationalized bio-fermentation products manufacturer,’ paid $2.3 million to purchase the 300 acres of land just 12 miles from Grand Forks Air Force Base, home to top secret drone technology. The company was planning to invest $700 million to open the mill,” Fox Business reported in February 2023.

“But local officials and federal authorities had warned that Fufeng has deep ties to the ruling Chinese Communist Party.”

For Grand Forks government officials, the financial lure was irresistible.

“Fufeng would have been the largest foreign private sector investment in the history of Grand Forks. The city said the plant would bring in at least 200 jobs and millions in tax revenue,” Fox observed. When the City Council was finally forced to climb down at a public meeting, residents in attendance chanted “USA! USA!”

Escorting China Into Indiana

Powerful financial incentives are similarly driving the Indiana state government to promote Chinese “investment” in Hoosier Land, despite the deep-rooted security threat. The America China Society of Indiana is a “strategic partner” of the IEDC. Its entire mission is to grow the Chinese economic footprint inside the state.

“Since 2013, ACSI has worked closely with the Indiana Economic Development Corporation to encourage foreign direct investment from China to Indiana,” the organization’s website boasts. “By creating a soft landing zone for Chinese companies, our state has seen investments by Haier Group, Sutong China Tire Resources, SF Motors, BeijingWest Industries, and Jingu NA Group. In addition to assisting Chinese companies, ACSI assists with inbound and outbound delegations.”

In October 2023, Gov. Holcomb bestowed the Sachem Award, the “state’s highest honor,” on ACSI founder Albert Chen. “The Governor gives the Sachem annually to recognize an individual whose lifetime of excellence and moral virtue has brought credit and honor to Indiana,” a post on the Indiana government website read. So it should come as no surprise that the Holcomb administration is fighting against transparency when it comes to the 11 Chinese projects on the table in Indiana.

“If Holcomb signs the bill, HB 1183 will go into effect July 1, 2024. So what will happen with these 11 pending deals between now and July 1? The IEDC could rush to complete its plans before the July deadline,” The Federalist’s Vanessa Battaglia wrote March 13. “Local governments and communities would have a better chance to apply oversight and stop these deals in that time with more information about who these Chinese companies are and where they are trying to go. But information has not been forthcoming.”

The American people are rising against Chinese business dominance within their communities, most especially when it comes to agriculture and farmland ownership. This spontaneous populist movement runs squarely against a decades-old push by entrenched state government officials to court Chinese money. The battle should only intensify across the nation in the months and years ahead.

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