Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday signed a series of bills that, among other measures, limit Chinese nationals from purchasing land in the state.
While the new laws also target entities and affiliates of Russia, Iran, North Korea, Cuba, Venezuela, and Syria, DeSantis’ administration made it clear China was seen as the most serious security threat.
“Florida is taking action to stand against the United States’ greatest geopolitical threat — the Chinese Communist Party,” DeSantis said at the signing ceremony. “We are following through on our commitment to crack down on Communist China.”
Across the county, several other states have enacted or are debating similar bills amid growing concern over Beijing’s influence within the United States. A Semafor count found that at least 24 states have considered bills to limit foreign ownership of property in recent months. Here’s a look at where some of those drafts stand.
The View From Florida
One of DeSantis’ laws now limits Chinese citizens on non-tourist visas to purchase single parcels that are smaller than two acres and at least five miles away from military installations.
The other bills signed yesterday put limitations on universities’ relationships with foreign entities, with DeSantis again singling-out partnership with Chinese institutes. State universities and schools now need permission to start partnerships with any foreign university, and Chinese apps like TikTok will also be banned from school and government servers.
The View From Texas
Texas’s Senate recently passed a bill that would ban Chinese, Iranian, Russian, and North Korean nationals from purchasing “real property,” defined as “agricultural land, an improvement located on agricultural land, a mine or quarry, a mineral in place, or a standing timber.”
The bill was watered down from an original draft that aimed to ban all property sales, including home purchases, to citizens and dual-nationals of these countries.
A “copycat” bill also aims to ban students from these countries from attending public universities within the state, but it faces strong opposition from activist groups.
The View From Montana
Montana’s Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte on May 5 signed into law restrictions on individuals and businesses from China from purchasing or leasing agricultural land, critical infrastructure, and homes near military assets. The law also applies to affiliates of Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Russia, and Venezuela.
Gianforte also said he would sign a state-wide ban on TikTok, which would make Montana the first state to enact such measures.
The View From Alabama
State legislators have introduced a property bill that only targets Chinese citizens and businesses. Unlike other bills, the language in Alabama’s draft does not currently elaborate on what constitutes “real property,” leaving open the possibility it could prohibit Chinese nationals from purchasing any property, not just agricultural land.
The View From The Other States
Several other states have considered or proposed new legislation against selling property to Chinese entities and those connected to other foreign adversaries, while some are debating or have enacted laws that bar land purchases by any foreign entities at all, including:
- North Dakota
- South Dakota
- North Carolina
- South Carolina
- West Virginia
Room for Disagreement
Many of those who would be impacted by the provisions in these bills argue they are xenophobic and discriminatory. Some activists have compared them to the so-called Alien Land Laws passed during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, which barred Asian immigrants, many of whom were workers that helped build the transcontinental railroad system, from buying land.
“Under their bills, everybody will look at Chinese [people] like a spy,” Ling Luo, founder of the Asian American Democratic Club, which is protesting Texas’ bill, told Semafor. “We become the scapegoat because we don’t have anything to do with all the balloons or whatever,” she added, referring to the diplomatic spat sparked by suspected Chinese surveillance balloons flying over the U.S. earlier this year. “We are only people living here looking for a better job, working for a better job, a better life.”
The federal government has also weighed limiting foreign land ownership, with an inter-agency committee currently asking that authorities review any purchases or leases made by foreign entities within a 100-mile radius of 48 military installations across the country.
Some House Republicans, meanwhile, have introduced legislation that specifically targets Chinese ownership of agricultural land.
Part of the federal government's actions were in response to Chinese agricultural group Fufeng buying 370 acres of land about 12 miles from a military base storing drones in Grand Forks, North Dakota. The deal was later scrapped.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, foreign entities owned or partially-owned 40 million acres of agricultural land in 2021, accounting for about 3% of all privately-owned agricultural land in the country. Chinese ownership is only a fraction of that, at about 384,000 acres or about 0.03% of all private land.