How China is buying up America’s food supply

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A Sioux Falls meatpacking plant was forced to close when it became the epicenter of COVID-19 in South Dakota. Three weeks after executives from its Chinese owner, WH Group, visited the plant, a month after President Trump’s ban on travel from China, nearly 600 of Smithfield Foods’ 3,700 employees tested positive for the virus, as have 135 additional people in close contact with employees. Smithfield Foods was started in 1936 by a family in Virginia. Today, the Chinese own Armour and the famous Smithfield hams, together with the most quintessential American brand of all: Nathan’s Famous hot dogs, with its iconic annual eating contest. In 2013, Smithfield Foods was bought by the Shanghui Group, later rebranded as the WH Group, for $4.7 billion. It remains the largest total acquisition of a U.S. company by the Chinese. With that purchase, the Chinese owned one in four pigs raised in the U.S. and, by adding 146,000 acres, continued to be the world’s largest buyer of American farmland. The purchase was underwritten with a $4-billion Bank of China loan facilitated by the Chinese Communist Party. The deal was an integral part of the CCP’s 2011 five-year plan to improve the Chinese economy with purchases of overseas farmland and food processing companies. Food is poised to become the oil of the 21st century, with demand increasing for a scarce resource.