Tennessee Republican Set to Insert Anti-China Provisions Into Dem Spending Bill

Marsha Blackburn measures would stop China from purchasing American farmland, infiltrating U.S. universities

Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R., Tenn.) / Getty Images
August 5, 2022

Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R., Tenn.) is spearheading two legislative measures that would crack down on China's purchase of American farmland and make it more difficult for CCP forces to infiltrate American universities.

Blackburn is set to offer the anti-CCP measures as amendments to the hotly contested, Democrat-led health, tax, and climate bill, which the Senate is scheduled to debate this weekend, according to congressional sources familiar with the effort. Senate Democrats are expected to fast-track the $740 billion bill, dubbed the Inflation Reduction Act, over GOP senators' objections.

Blackburn's anti-CCP measures would block China from cashing in on any agricultural programs offered in the new legislative package. Chinese owners control more than 194,000 acres of U.S. farmland and forestry, estimated to be worth around $1.9 billion, according to background information on Blackburn's amendments reviewed by the Free Beacon.

The second amendment would increase congressional pressure on China's partnership with U.S. universities. While Confucius Institutes—the CCP-run satellite centers that made deep inroads in American academia before coming under federal scrutiny in recent years—are shutting down across the country, China is replacing them with alternate programs as part of a bid to maintain its presence in American higher education. Blackburn's measure would make it more difficult for these CCP institutions to develop ties with American universities.

While it will be difficult for these amendments to survive in the Democrat-led Senate, Blackburn says she is trying to ensure China does not benefit from taxpayer funds and send a clear message about the CCP's pernicious infiltration into America.

"Beijing is positioning itself to exploit the United States," Blackburn told the Free Beacon. "The Chinese Communist Party is attempting to take over the USA across all industries—pushing spies into U.S. universities and buying U.S. farmland. China is succeeding with weak leaders like Joe Biden in the White House. We must crack down on China and unravel our ties."

China's efforts to buy up U.S. farmland have mostly flown under the radar, and Blackburn's measure is likely to boost attention to the issue, particularly among her GOP colleagues.

"The purposes of this increased investment are both profits for Chinese investors and projection of Beijing's influence abroad, even through illicit means," according to the information provided by Blackburn's office. "National security implications of Chinese government-linked ownership of agricultural land are well-documented, including the potential for CCP espionage and interference with sensitive U.S. military systems."

Blackburn's amendment, one of the first to address this issue, "ensures that the Chinese Communist Party will not reap the benefits of any [Agriculture Department] farm programs covered under the massive legislative package.

Blackburn's second measure, which targets China's ties with U.S. universities, is also likely to garner widespread GOP support. While most of the 118 Confucius Institutes have shut down or are in the process of doing so after a federal crackdown, "the CCP continues to enjoy relationships with various American universities and it is estimated that more than 58 continue to keep relationships with their former Confucius Institute partners," according to a June 2022 report on the topic.

The Confucius Institutes have attempted to rebrand to maintain their foothold in the American academic world. Institutions, for instance, "have entered new sister university agreements with Chinese universities, established 'new' centers closely modeled on defunct Confucius Institutes, and even continued to receive funding from the same Chinese government agencies that funded the Confucius Institutes," according to the information provided by Blackburn's office.

As with the former Confucius Institutes, "these relationships give the CCP the power to leverage funding to pressure universities, censor professors, silence statements, and cancel events focusing on Hong Kong or Taiwan," the senator's office notes in information about her amendments. "Moreover, Chinese teachers at these institutes sign contracts with the government of China and report back to China."