States act against foreign land ownership amid security concerns

Apr 05, 2024


In an era of increasing geopolitical tension, over two-thirds of US states, many under Republican leadership, are moving to restrict or outright ban land purchases by foreign entities. This legislative trend aims squarely at mitigating perceived threats to national security, particularly those posed by Chinese citizens and companies. 

Despite the minimal current ownership by Chinese interests, the legislation reflects deep-seated concerns over the potential for foreign influence over American land, especially in critical areas such as agriculture and technology. 

The drive for these restrictions reflects a broader national apprehension regarding China's role in the global economy and its impact on US sovereignty. State actions include not only prohibitions on land ownership but also measures against Chinese investments in universities and state pension funds. The emphasis is on safeguarding the US food supply chain and critical infrastructure, illustrating a significant shift in how states perceive and respond to foreign investment. 

Federal responses, such as those by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), are deemed insufficient by many state lawmakers, prompting them to take matters into their own hands. The resulting laws draw on various lists of hostile countries, with China often explicitly mentioned, underscoring the targeted nature of these measures. 

Critics argue these laws risk overreach and could harm the US's international reputation and market environment. However, proponents see them as vital safeguards against the encroachment of foreign powers in sectors deemed critical to national security. 

This state-level activism mirrors broader trends in US policy and public sentiment, which increasingly views Chinese investment with skepticism. As this legislative wave continues, it reflects the evolving dynamics of US-China relations and the growing focus on economic security as a component of national defense.

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