by Alex Horsman
This originally published in the Libertas Bella blog on October 23, 2020. It is published here with the author’s permission.
The People’s Republic of China isn’t exactly a favorite of the American public. Since the Wuhan Coronavirus outbreak of early 2020, Americans are questioning whether or not all of that cheap plastic junk from Wal-Mart doesn’t come with a hidden cost.
It’s not just about the virus: There is also the spectre of deindustrialization, which has been a social disaster for the United States, particularly the rust belt. What’s more, Tucker Carlson and others reported during the early days of the Wuhan Coronavirus outbreak that the United States was dependent on China for basic medical supplies, such as penicillin.
Carlson’s comments are incredibly important, especially when we begin drilling down further into just how reliant the United States is on China: 97 percent of all antibiotics and 80 percent of all active ingredients in American pharmaceuticals come from China. In 2017 alone, the United States imported a whopping $4.6 billion in foodstuffs from the People’s Republic of China.
The corporate press has largely been silent on this matter, which isn’t surprising: They have a long history of sympathy for the People’s Republic of China and virtually all enemies of America and liberty. But there is also a deep presence by the People’s Republic of China in the United States, both in our media and in our economy, specifically in the real estate market.
If it sounds insane to you that United States laws allow a hostile foreign power to own both media and land in this country, well, you’re not alone. And while it might sound like we’re making a mountain out of a molehill, if you read the following article you will probably be amazed at just how deep the rabbithole of Chinese influence in the American media and economy goes.
This is nothing less than the defining national security issue of our age.
China Buying U.S. Land: How Much Land Does China Own in the U.S.?
American prosperity has largely been built on a dual foundation: cheap land, expensive labor. Until Ted Kennedy’s Immigration Act of 1965, Ronald Reagan’s Amnesty of 1986 and NAFTA opened up the floodgates of Third World immigration (both legal and illegal) this formula basically held firm.
When there was not enough labor, employers had to pay more rather than simply importing massive amounts of cheap labor from countries with little in the way of worker protections.
The same laws allowing for a massive influx of cheap labor have also destabilized the American real estate market: More buyers means more demand means higher prices for those looking to buy a home.
There are a myriad of social consequences from this, chief among them that family formation is more expensive and thus less attainable for the average young American worker in the 21st Century than it was in years past.
But beyond this, there is the problem of allowing foreign nationals to own real estate in the United States, a practice that is outlawed in a number of countries. Where foreign nationals are allowed to own real estate, there are often restrictions on where they can buy and how much they can own.
The reasons for this hardly need explaining, but we will do so anyway: First, the citizens of a nation have first claim on the land there. Second, it is potentially dangerous to allow too much of a nation’s land to fall into the hands of foreigners.
Currently 30 million acres of American farmland is owned by foreign investors or fully 2.2 percent of all American farmland. For context, that’s an area roughly the size of Mississippi or Pennsylvania These are effectively absentee landlords who own some of the best real estate in the United States.
For its part, China owned 191,000 acres worth $1.9 billion as of 2019. This might not sound like a lot, but Chinese ownership of American farmland has exploded dramatically over the last decade. Indeed, there has been a tenfold expansion of Chinese ownership of farmland in the United States in less than a decade.
Six states — Hawaii, Iowa, Minnesota, Mississippi, North Dakota and Oklahoma — currently ban foreign ownership of farmland.
Massive Chinese investment in American farmland is troubling for one very obvious reason: It puts the food security of the nation in the hands of a hostile foreign power. But there is also the social cost of allowing foreign buyers who have effectively unlimited resources to compete on the real estate market with smaller domestic buyers.
It is understandable if no one reading this has any tears to shed for Big Aggie, but the real victims of this are smaller landholders. For those concerned about environmental issues, ask yourself who is more likely to practice good stewardship of the land — American farmers or Chinese bureaucrats thousands of miles away.
Chinese Real Estate Investors in the U.S.
In addition to their farmland holdings, China owns more residential real estate than any other foreign country, which has a significant impact on the real estate market on the West Coast. Sound far-fetched?
According to Market Watch, “Chinese buyers accounted for roughly 25 percent of total foreign investment in U.S. residential real estate.” Canada was far behind at a relatively scant 9 percent.
The article specifically mentions Chinese investment in California real estate as a driving force behind high housing prices in the Golden State. It’s worth noting that many of these properties are owned as rental properties by absentee landlords. Again, who is going to care more about the quality of tenant life?
An American down the street or a Chinese bureaucrat thousands of miles away?
Modern Chinese Propaganda and the Corporate Media
Precious little is written in the major media in the United States about this epidemic of Chinese ownership of American land and real estate. Even less is written about the influence and leverage that the People’s Republic of China has within the corporate media.
This often takes the form of the corporate directors of media firms having close financial ties to China that are little known to the American public. This creates a financial incentive to white wash the actions of the People’s Republic of China, both domestically and abroad.
Recall the way that the media bristled at calling COVID-19 “the China Virus” or “Wuhan Coronavirus.” There is a reason for this beyond simple political correctness. Many in the upper echelons of the corporate media have a vested interest in protecting the reputation of the People’s Republic of China.
The New York Times (NYT)
Take Carlos Slim, the largest shareholder of The New York Times, who controls about a third of the board. His other ventures have very close ties to Chinese firms that are directly tied to the Chinese government. His Giant Motors is engaged in joint operations with China’s JAC Motors to penetrate the Latin American market.
This was an attempt to work around the Trump Administration’s aggressive trade policies against China. America Movil, his mobile phone company, has partnered with Huawei Technologies to sell 5G technology in Colombia. Huawei is a proven threat to American security and wants to end federal restrictions on their access to 5G technology.
Washington Post (WaPo)
Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO and owner of the Washington Post. Many of Amazon’s biggest-selling products, such as the Echo and the Kindle, are manufactured in China by low-wage, low-skill labor.
Bezos’ cheerleading for the People’s Republic of China is much more explicit than that of Slim: The Washington Post includes a supplement called “China Watch” which is written directly by the Chinese government’s official media arm.
The fact that this is a paid advertising supplement shouldn’t calm any worries about the PRC’s influence over at the Post — it effectively means that Bezos is accepting money from the Chinese government to run official Chinese propaganda in an American newspaper.
Cable News Network (CNN)
CNN is a property of WarnerMedia, which is very closely tied to the People’s Republic of China. They have a $50 million investment deal with the PRC. Specifically, this is an investment in China Media Capital, a private company (in as much as such things exist in the PRC) subject to the censorship of the Chinese government.
It is worth remembering how CNN fawned over the Chinese reaction to the Wuhan Coronavirus in the early days of the pandemic.
National Broadcasting Company (NBC)
Both MSNBC and NBC are owned by NBC Universal who have a partnership with China’s state-run media, Xinhua, to cooperate on international news. The United States State Department has identified Xinhua as “foreign missions,” effectively Chinese propaganda outfits with no independence from the Chinese government.
What’s more, CMC Partners, an investment group with direct technological and financial oversight from Beijing, now has full ownership of Oriental Dreamworks, formerly owned by NBC Universal.
American Broadcasting Company (ABC)
ABC arguably has the strongest ties with the Chinese economy. The Chinese government and state-owned enterprises provided significant support for the $3.6 trillion cost of building a Disney World in Shanghai.
ESPN, another ABC property, told staff to not disparage the Communist regime and, where possible, to avoid the topic entirely. This was during the fracas over an NBA coach’s criticism of the Chinese regime, American media properties effectively siding with China over America.
Bloomberg is heavily invested in China, which is perhaps why Michael Bloomberg refuses to even refer to the People’s Republic of China as a dictatorship.
For Bloomberg, it is a far more insidious relationship than other American media companies: They have sent $150 billion into Chinese bond markets to 364 countries. Out of the 364, 159 were directly controlled by the Chinese government.
Bloomberg’s media arm has been a willing servant of the Chinese Communist Party. In 2014, they squashed a story about the wealth of the Chinese elites. They leveraged a non-disclosure agreement to silence both a reporter based in Beijing and his wife, neither of whom ever worked for Bloomberg.
Lest one think that this is simply an example of companies seeking to do good business in a large and emerging market, it is worth noting that conservative media outlets are far less likely to be invested in China and when they are, they tend to be significantly less invested than their mainstream, liberal counterparts.
News Corp, for example, the parent company of Fox News, has effectively abandoned trying to penetrate China in any significant way.
Finally, there is the question of communication infrastructure in the United States. In February 2020, Attorney General William Barr warned Americans that we were losing the war to roll out 5G networks both domestically and abroad.
The economic concern here is not insignificant: There’s tons of money in 5G infrastructure and it’s much better that this go in the pockets of Americans than to the People’s Republic of China.
However, especially in the wake of the Huawei security scandal, it is worth asking whether or not any American data is safe in a world where the Chinese control the dominant mobile telecommunications infrastructure.
There’s no “smoking gun” per se, but there is a heck of a lot of smoke when it comes to Chinese influence in the American media ecosystem. One step beyond this is the literal ownership of Chinese propaganda media in the United States.
Meet China Radio International: China’s Equivalent to Radio Free Europe
China Radio International is effectively the Chinese equivalent of Radio Free Europe. It broadcasts PRC propaganda all around the world, including in the United States.
They own ten radio stations in the United States, which might not sound like a lot until you consider that they’re in most of the major American media markets including Atlanta, Houston, Boston, Las Vegas and two in the Washington, D.C. metro area.
It can also be accessed basically anywhere in the world via Internet or shortwave.
China Buys Hollywood: Chinese Penetration in the Film Market
The People’s Republic of China’s penetration in the American media is not limited to a few AM radio stations, either.
Beginning in 2012, the People’s Republic of China began looking for ways to penetrate the American film market. Specifically, China has sought to create inroads into owning American film distribution. This effectively allows them a veto over films that might run contrary to the PRC’s goals for its image abroad.
This could be something as simple as squashing a movie revolving around protests. They can also help to promote films that are a sort of soft propaganda for the Chinese regime, such as the Disney nature documentary Born In China.
Dalian Wanda is a Chinese firm that stands as an exemplar of how Chinese penetration of the American media market will work. It is, since 2012, the owner of the AMC theater chain, which it then used to purchase Carmike Cinemas.
When taken together, these two companies form the largest chain of theaters in the United States, giving a Chinese firm a massive amount of leverage over the American movie marketplace. The parent company, Dalian Wanda, has been very candid about its intention to use ownership of these chains to promote Chinese interests in the United States.
The bottom line is, don’t expect to see any films about Tibet or the Hong Kong protests in AMC theaters anytime soon.
Dalian Wanda and other Chinese firms are also looking to acquire significant stakes in American film production companies, controlling the content that Americans — and, of course, the world market — can see from the very source.
Dalian Wanda purchased Legendary Entertainment in 2016. This is the studio responsible for such international hits as: Godzilla: King of the Monsters, The Dark Knight, Jurassic Park: Fallen Kingdom and many others.
Paramount Pictures wanted to sell 49 percent of its shares to Dalian Wanda, however the deal fell through. Instead, they formed a partnership with Chinese media companies Shanghai Film Group and Huahua Media.
In addition to pro-Chinese propaganda, China can and has used their leverage in the American film market to begin pushing anti-American propaganda.
In Joshua Kurlantzick’s article “China: Economic Power, Political Enigma” in Washington Quarterly, he details how film companies controlled by the Chinese Communist Party have glorified the 9/11 attacks.
Coming soon to a movie theater near you.
TikTok Controversy: China Controls the Algorithm
The PRC has likewise made inroads into the lucrative and popular gaming market. For many young people, the preferred form of media is not movies or even television, but gaming. Chinese companies are now in control of Riot Games, Epic Games, and Cryptic Studios.
This means that China will now be controlling media consumed by children and young adults, able to insert various forms of subtle propaganda into their favorite games.
But the real concern might not even be a hostile foreign power propagandizing to your children through the medium of video games. It might be the technological and military capabilities that China has access to when they purchase video game companies.
The United States military has worked in the past with large research universities to come up with realistic training simulations leveraging emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and virtual reality.
And, of course, there was also TikTok, the Chinese social media platform popular with “Zoomers” that was little more than Chinese spyware. The Trump Administration moved to either ban it or force China to sell it to an American firm.
This represents the first significant pushback against Chinese infiltration of the American media and economy, but we sincerely hope that it will not be the last.
The Fight Against Communist Chinese Influence in America
In February 2020, the Trump Administration announced that five state-run Chinese “media” companies (China Daily Distribution CorpChina Global Television Network, China Radio International, Hai Tian Development USA Inc. and Xinhua News Agency) would no longer be recognized as such, but would instead be called by their proper names — they will now be treated as foreign embassies.
In June of that same year, the Trump Administration added an additional four state-run media entities to that list: China Central Television, China News Service, the Global Times and the People’s Daily. This was in part thanks to increased use of these media arms as propaganda outlets in the United States.
China retaliated in March by revoking the press credentials of three reporters from the New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal before expelling them from the country.
PRC officials were very candid that this was in direct response to American actions to curb and monitor the activity of Chinese propaganda outlets in the United States.
The tangible effect of this is that the companies now have to disclose to the government who works for them, as well as share all hiring and firing decisions with the State Department. They likewise will now have to register with the State Department all properties rented and owned within the United States.
Before they can purchase or lease new property, they will have to obtain approval from the State Department. It is worth noting that Western media outlets operate under far more strict rules in China than their Chinese counterparts do in the United States.
It is unsurprising that the People’s Republic of China would do anything within its power to expand its global reach and to influence public opinion abroad, especially at a time when more and more Westerners are becoming skeptical of the relationship between the PRC and the West.
However, what is surprising is how little the United States and other Western governments have done to prevent Chinese penetration of their economy and culture.
It may or may not be troubling when foreign nationals own real estate and media within the United States. There are solid arguments in either direction.
However, one would be hard pressed to make the case that allowing the People’s Republic of China — a rogue state by virtually any definition, the chief rival of the United States internationally and an enemy of liberty around the world — any influence in the American real estate market and media is a mistake of potentially world-changing proportions.