A Chinese corporation’s corn milling plant construction project in North Dakota has become a national security issue. The 300 acres of farmland in question was near a United States Air Force base in North Dakota that is home to delicate drone innovation might quickly result in strain between the two nations over the concern of possible Chinese espionage.
The Shandong-based Fufeng Group, a company that produces flavor enhancers and sugar replacements, paid millions of dollars to three North Dakota farmers near to Grand Forks, North Dakota.
The residential or commercial property is merely a 20-minute drive from Grand Forks Air Force Base, which houses a few of the nation’s most sensitive military drone developments. Three North Dakotans offered the land to a Chinese business for $2.6 million.
And now, some security specialists warn that the Chinese corn milling plant needs to be stopped since it might allow Chinese intelligence extraordinary access to the center.
It’s an only-in-America sort of battle– pitting the home and financial rights of a neighborhood against the national security warnings from high-ranking authorities in the country’s capital.
The argument over the project has actually roiled the little neighborhood, with dramatic city board hearings, local political leaders at odds with one another, and community groups getting ready to obstruct the project.
The Fufeng purchase appears to be part of a pattern in which the Chinese government would utilize industrial projects as a front to perform espionage campaigns against the United States by sneaking near military setups, Maj. Jeremy Fox of the Air Force wrote in an April internal memo.
Here’s what Maj. Jeremy Fox wrote:
“Some of the most sensitive elements of Grand Forks exist with the digital uplinks and downlinks inherent with unmanned air systems and their interaction with space-based assets.”
“Passive collection of those signals would be undetectable, as the requirements to do so would merely require ordinary antennas tuned to the right collecting frequencies. This introduces a grave vulnerability to our Department of Defense installations and is incredibly compromising to U.S. National Security.”
Fox included that such information collection might present “a costly national security risk causing grave damage to United States’ strategic advantages,” CNBC reported.
More key details reported by Western Journal:
In a May 26 report titled “China’s Interests in U.S. Agriculture: Augmenting Food Security through Investment Abroad,” the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission said that Fufeng was not a state-owned company.
However, the report said that the company’s chairman, Li Xuechun, was a former Chinese Communist Party official, noting that Li served in Shandong’s provincial legislature and had been praised as a “Model Laborer” by the CCP.
“The location of the land close to the base is particularly convenient for monitoring air traffic flows in and out of the base, among other security-related concerns,” the report said, citing Fox’s memo.
The Fufeng purchase has also received opposition from senators, including members of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
“I think we grossly underappreciate how effective they are at collecting information, collecting data, using it in nefarious ways,” Republican Sen. Kevin Cramer of North Dakota told CNBC. “And so I’d just as soon not have the Chinese Communist Party doing business in my backyard.”
“The Senate Intelligence Committee has been loudly sounding the alarm about the counterintelligence threat posed by the (People’s Republic of China),” Democratic Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Mark Warner added. “We should be seriously concerned about Chinese investment in locations close to sensitive sites, such as military bases around the U.S.”
Warner was joined by Republican Senate Intelligence Committee ranking member Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida in expressing reservations over the land purchase.
“It is dangerous, foolish, and shortsighted to allow the Chinese Communist Party and its proxies to purchase land near U.S. military installations,” Rubio said in a statement. “This is something we must address.”
Locals of Grand Forks were divided on the issue. While some saw it as an opportunity to do business, others were skeptical of Chinese investments creeping into their neighborhood.
“It makes me feel nervous for my grandkids,” said Craig Spicers, whose property bordered the land. “It makes me feel nervous for my kids.”
Grand Forks resident Gary Bridgeford, who sold part of his property to Fufeng for $2.6 million, said that fellow residents have been erecting signs expressing reservations against the sale near his front yard.
“I’ve been threatened,” Bridgeford told CNBC. “I’ve been called every name in the book for selling property.”
According to Bridgeford, concerns over Chinese espionage were exaggerated. “People hear the China stuff and there’s concern,” he said. “But everyone has a phone in their pocket that was probably made in China. Where do you draw the line?”
Grand Forks Mayor Brandon Bochenski said that he approved of the project because Fufeng’s planned $700 million plant would inject 200 jobs into the economy, CNBC reported.
“We want to do what’s best for the community, we want to do what’s best for the country, it’s a difficult balance right now,” he said.