Governor Greg Abbott (R-TX) vowed to back legislation prohibiting Chinese, Russian, Iranian, and North Korean citizens and entities from purchasing land in Texas.
The bill, submitted two months ago by Republican state Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, states that citizens, corporations, and government agencies of the four nations “may not purchase or otherwise acquire title to real property” in the state. Abbott confirmed on Sunday that he would endorse the legislation, which has not yet been voted upon by lawmakers.
“The past several years have seen more Texans alarmed by the increased acquisition of land by primarily Chinese interests,” Kolkhorst remarked in a statement provided to the Center Square. “The growing ownership of Texas land by some foreign entities is highly disturbing and raises red flags for many Texans. By comparison, as an American, go try to buy land near a Chinese military base and see how it works out for you. It would never happen there and it shouldn’t happen here. Passing this law delivers some basic safeguards to ensure Texans remain in control of Texas land.”
The potential ban on certain overseas entities from owning land in Texas follows legislation passed two years ago which barred contracts with foreign companies related to critical infrastructure such as cybersecurity systems and electric grids.
Texas currently has the largest amount of foreign-held agricultural land of any other state, according to a report from the Department of Agriculture. The more than 4.7 million acres of agricultural land held by foreigners constituted 3.1% of the total land area in the Lone Star State. Between 2019 and 2020, the amount of land controlled by foreigners increased by 6%.
Chinese entities own slightly less than 1% of foreign-held acres in the United States. Canadian investors own roughly 32% of agricultural and non-agricultural land, while citizens of other allies, such as the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, represent 31% of land holdings by foreigners.
Officials have frequently cited national security risks arising from the Chinese purchase of agricultural land. Lawmakers in South Dakota, who also recently moved to prevent Chinese entities from purchasing land in the state, are particularly concerned about the acquisition of farmland near Ellsworth Air Force Base. The purchase of 300 acres near Grand Forks Air Force Base in North Dakota, where some of the nation’s secure drone technology is located, last year by Chinese food company Fufeng Group raised concerns of espionage among authorities.
Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis has also promised to prevent Chinese entities from purchasing land in the Sunshine State.
The Biden administration opened an investigation into Chinese telecommunications conglomerate Huawei last year over concerns that cell towers utilizing the company’s devices are transmitting data on military bases and missile silos to the communist nation. A final rule issued two months ago by the Federal Communications Commission will block Huawei, ZTE, Hikvision, and Dahua from importing certain technology considered a threat to national security.
Beyond commercial and agricultural property, Chinese entities composed 6% of foreign residential real estate purchases between April 2021 and March 2022, according to an analysis from the National Association of Realtors. As much as 8% of residential properties acquired by foreigners were in Texas.