January 29, 2023

Photographic illustration of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott with lines extending from him.

Photo illustration: Allie Carl/Axios. Photo: Bill Clark/Getty Images

Gov. Greg Abbott and other Texas officials are ramping up anti-China rhetoric, threatening to ban Chinese nationals — as well as those from Iran, North Korea and Russia — from buying property in Texas.

The big picture: Suspicions about links between the Chinese government and Chinese companies and individuals are running high, from Washington to state capitals across the country.

  • Abbott has already called for TikTok, which is owned by a Chinese company, to be banned from state-owned devices over cybersecurity concerns.
  • Critics say the policy demonizes Chinese Americans and points to racist attacks against people of Asian descent.

Driving the news: State Senator Lois Kolkhorst, a Republican from Brenham, has proposed banning citizens, governments and organizations from China, Iran, North Korea and Russia from buying land in Texas.

  • Abbott said on twitter he would sign such a law.
  • “Communist China, America’s greatest enemy, is on the brink,” Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller wrote last year in an op-ed encouraging such a ban. “They’re buying up farmland in the United States and Texas.”

Between the lines: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin — like Abbott, potential GOP presidential candidates in 2024 — have also this year called for halting some property purchases by Chinese companies.

What you say: The growing ownership of Texas land by some foreign companies is highly troubling,” Kolkhorst said in December after he submitted the bill. As an American, try buying land near a Chinese military base and see how it works for you.”

  • She cited the 2021 purchase of more than 130,000 acres in South Texas by a Chinese firm as part of plans to build a wind farm.
  • Kolkhorst said Friday the bill will “make it clear that the bans do not apply to US citizens and lawful permanent residents,” the Texas Tribune reported.

The other side: At a news conference Monday, Rep. Gene Wu, a Chinese-born Democrat from Houston, said: showed a photo of the house in which he grew up in Houston.

  • “This is the house my parents bought when we were on our citizenship journey,” he said. “This was our first step on our journey to the American dream. That was our milestone. We did that to show that we are here and we made it.”

  • “This type of legislation is what we are facing again,” he continued, comparing the Kolkhorst Act to previous anti-Asian federal policies like the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. “…and we cannot accept that.”

Zoom in: Chinese homebuyers accounted for 6% of international homebuyers in Central Texas between April 2021 and March 2022, according to a recent report by the Austin Board of Realtors.

  • Note: International home buyers include non-US citizens who are here with a green card or foreign work or student visa.
  • More than half of foreign buyers have a US Green Card, signaling they are lawful permanent residents.

Using the numbers: International homebuyers spent $613 million on real estate in the Austin metro area from April 2021 to March 2022 — or 3% of the total value of home sales during that period.

  • The Texas Realtors trade association “is closely monitoring this issue,” spokesman David Gibbs told Axios.

What we observe: Texas’ relationship with China, the state’s second largest trading partner in 2021.

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