Politicians are demanding answers following the recent revelation that a billionaire Chinese Communist Party (CCP) member is the second-largest foreign owner of U.S. farmland, somehow going under the radar for nearly a decade.
Chen, 51, is a cofounder of Shanda Interactive Entertainment and a longtime CCP ranking member.
According to China Youth Daily, the newspaper of the Communist Youth League of China, Chen joined the CCP at 18 years old and was elected to the youth league’s central committee in Shanghai. In 2008, the businessman was appointed to the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC).
For reasons unclear at this time, the billionaire’s purchase of U.S. farmland does not appear in government records of land ownership by foreign investors, the Daily Mail reported Saturday.
According to Land Report, Chen “has been staring us straight in the face for almost a decade.”
The 2015 purchase was reportedly made by Chen via the investment vehicle Whitefish Cascade Forest Resources LLC, acquiring the land from Fidelity National Financial Ventures at $430 per acre.
This remained a secret from the public until December 2023, when Oregon tax records revealed that the 198,000-acre block is currently owned by Shanda Asset Management LLC, Chen’s investment company.
Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) reacted to the news to the New York Post, telling the outlet Saturday that the Biden administration had “dropped the ball” on protecting agricultural land from being bought up by “foreign adversaries.”
However, the land purchase was made under the Obama administration and remained hidden during former President Donald Trump’s tenure as well.
“Communist China is purchasing U.S. agricultural land to subvert our sovereignty, undermine our agriculture industry, encroach on our military installations, and upend America’s rural communities,” Stefanik said.
The CCP member is also the owner of a $39 million New York City townhouse and a $26 million estate in his current base of Los Angeles, California.
Stefanik has continually called on the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to take action against foreign ownership of farmland, writing in a letter to the agency last year, “Food security is national security.”
Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) renewed demands for Congress to secure U.S. land on Friday in an official statement:
While we learn more about the specifics around this unfolding situation, it highlights the need for Congress to do more to protect American agricultural security and prevent our foreign adversaries from controlling our country’s food supply while also gaining access to land near sensitive military sites.
The Agricultural Foreign Investment Disclosure Act (AFIDA) requires “foreign investors who acquire, transfer, or hold an interest in U.S. agricultural land to report such holdings and transactions to the Secretary of Agriculture,” according to the USDA.
The U.S.’s largest foreign landowner is Canada’s Irving family, who own more than 1.2 million acres in Maine as both the Eastern Maine Railway and the Maine Northern Railway are subsidiaries of their holding company.