As China gains footholds in America, Congress is ‘sleeping at the wheel,’ former Pentagon official says

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Congress must be “sleeping at the wheel” for allowing China to purchase nearly 200,000 acres of agricultural land on U.S. soil, a former top Air Force official told Fox News.

A Chinese food manufacturer, the Fufeng Group, recently purchased 370 acres of farmland 16 miles from the Grand Forks Air Force Base in North Dakota, which houses a highly sensitive drone program. Military officials and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle raised concerns after the purchase, but Nicolas Chaillan, who was previously the Air Force’s chief software officer, said he hasn’t seen Congress take action to stop such acquisitions.

“It’s almost like we are willingly letting China get a massive foothold in the United States,” Chaillan told Fox News. “Of course, we are a free market, but we shouldn’t also be imbeciles.”

It “wouldn’t be surprising” if the Fufeng Group chose the location due to its proximity to the Air Force base,” Chaillan continued. “It’s very possible that China is prioritizing locations close to military bases.”

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Graphic showing proximity of land purchased by Chinese food producer to Grand Forks AFB in North Dakota. 

Graphic showing proximity of land purchased by Chinese food producer to Grand Forks AFB in North Dakota.  (Fox News)

Air Force Maj. Jeremy Fix warned in a memo that the Fufeng Group’s land was close enough that sensitive communications related to the drone program could be secretly intercepted, which “would present a costly national security risk.” 

And Sens. Mark Warner and Marco Rubio, the respective top Democrat and top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, also opposed the Fufeng Group’s project.

Additionally, the Fufeng Group has ties to both the Chinese government and the Chinese Communist Party, according to the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission.

Eric Chutorash, the COO of the company’s U.S. subsidiary, said he would not engage in “any type of espionage activities or be associated with a company that does.” But Chaillan said the intentions of a few individuals are no match for the will of the CCP

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“The Communist Party is very good at spying,” the former Pentagon official said. “What they can do is pretty scary in a way that most people would not know what’s going on.”

Chaillan resigned from his military post in September and on his way out criticized the military’s failure to prioritize technological investments to compete with Beijing. He stressed the Chinese government’s patience during his interview with Fox News.

“They can invest in this land for 10, 15, 20 years in the hope that they’re going to get access to the next generations of weapons,” Chaillan said.

But Chaillan said China’s existing data-collecting entities deeply rooted in U.S. society is a bigger concern. He said the regime has acquired a strategic advantage over any nation due to its advanced cyber offenses, its strong propaganda arm and data collecting platforms like TikTok

Grand Forks Air Force Base, located 16 miles from 370 acres of farmland purchased by Fufeng Group, an agricultural company with ties to Beijing.

Grand Forks Air Force Base, located 16 miles from 370 acres of farmland purchased by Fufeng Group, an agricultural company with ties to Beijing.

“They are really in possession of a weapon of misinformation, potentially, and mass control of people’s minds,” Chaillan said. 

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“Companies like TikTok and this kind of deal are a dream come true for the Chinese Communist Party,” he continued. “They probably believe that we’re pretty incredibly stupid to let this kind of things happen.” 

He said it’s “mind-boggling” that the U.S. has allowed its biggest adversary to buy so much of its farmland

Fufeng Group, a Chinese food producer, bought 370 acres of North Dakota farmland in close proximity with a U.S. Air Force base 

Fufeng Group, a Chinese food producer, bought 370 acres of North Dakota farmland in close proximity with a U.S. Air Force base 

“You wonder sometimes why Congress is sleeping at the wheel,” Chaillan said. “Some congressmen have been talking about this, the fear of collecting data and intelligence gathering, but I don’t see any kind of action being taken.” 

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“If 50% of Congress was not still struggling to turn on their smartphone and understand the importance of data and machine learning and AI, you would probably see a much broader engagement when it comes to data privacy and making sure that China is not able to steal the American citizens’ data,” Chaillan added. 

He said Defense Department officials have downplayed China’s advancements and the increasing threat the regime poses to cover for their own “incompetence and complacency.”

“Unfortunately, we had the wrong leaders, and we still do with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff still diminishing the damage that’s created by China and calling China a near-peer adversary,” Chaillan told Fox News. America’s inaction has let “China slowly but surely take over some of the key weapon capability that will let us win the next battles.”