The second-largest foreign landowner in the U.S. is a Chinese billionaire who it has been determined is a member of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), according to a Daily Caller News Foundation review of Chinese-language news reports.

Chen Tianqiao, the founder, chairman and CEO of global investment firm Shanda Group, owns approximately 200,000 acres of land in Oregon, according to Land Report. Chen also has extensive ties to the Chinese government, ranging from CCP membership to executive roles in CCP-affiliated organizations, according to a DCNF review of Chinese-language media reports.

In 2015, Chen acquired 198,000 acres in Oregon, according to Land Report. The $85 million purchase made the Chinese national the 82nd-largest property owner in the U.S. and the second-largest foreign U.S. land owner, Bloomberg reported, second only to a Canadian family who owns over 1 million acres of Maine.

Oregon’s Bull Springs Skyline Forest accounts for approximately 33,000 of Chen’s acreage, according to Land Report. The forest is located west of Bend, Oregon, and is home to springs, creeks, timberland and wildlife, according to the Bull Springs Skyline Forest website.

Oregon Republican Rep. Lori Chavez-DeRemer said she was “deeply concerned that individuals tied to the Chinese Communist Party are buying up timberland, which is one of our most precious and finite resources.”

“Foreign ownership of United States lands is a serious problem that has rightfully sparked unease among farmers, ranchers and foresters across the country,” Chavez-DeRemer told the DCNF.

Chen also owns several urban properties in the U.S., including the Vanderbilt Mansion in Manhattan, the Seeley Mudd Estate near Los Angeles and a 150,000 square-foot research facility at Caltech called the Tianqiao and Chrissy Chen Institute for Neuroscience — each worth tens of millions of dollars, according to Land Report.

Chinese ownership of U.S. land, in particular agricultural land, has come under increased scrutiny from GOP governors, who see it as a potential national security threat. Several states, including Florida, have taken legislative and executive action to ban Chinese ownership of U.S. farmland, the most recent being Missouri Gov. Mike Parson’s January 2024 executive order banning such purchases near military installations.

“One of the Chinese Communist Party’s goals is to undermine and weaken America,” Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio told the DCNF. “This includes instances where our greatest adversary continues to buy land — whether its farmland or near our installations.”

‘Despise All Our Enemies’

Born in 1973, Chen served as a student cadre from an early age, state-run media outlet China News Service reported.

“In 1990, Chen enrolled in Fudan University to major in economics, the following year he joined the Chinese Communist Party, and, in 1993, he won the title of ‘Shanghai Municipal Outstanding Model Cadre Student,’” according to a DCNF translation of an archived 2005 press release from Chen’s alma mater, Fudan University in Shanghai.

Chen was just 18 when he joined the Communist Party, according to a 2007 article from Communist Youth Daily, the official newspaper for the Communist Youth League.

Since joining the Party, Chinese media outlets and business filings have repeatedly identified Chen as a CCP member.

A 2016 Sohu.com article identified Chen and several other Chinese CEOs as CCP members. Likewise, Chen’s profile on the Chinese financial portal Sina, which was last updated in November 2023, identifies him as a CCP member.

The state-run Beijing Review describes Chen as an admirer of Mao Zedong, first chairman of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Several Chinese-language outlets have also reported that Chen’s corporate office prominently displays Mao’s written works.

Chen even has a favorite Mao Zedong quote, according to state-run media outlet China News Service: “Strategically we should despise all our enemies, but tactically we should take them all seriously.”

Mao delivered the remarks in a speech denouncing American imperialism during a visit to Moscow in November 1957, according to the University of Dayton Review.

Above and beyond his CCP membership, Chinese government records show that Chen served as a representative to the 11th and 12th councils of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), which ran between 2008 and 2018.

The CPPCC is a Chinese government agency where “all the relevant united front actors inside and outside the party come together: party elders, intelligence officers, diplomats, propagandists, military officers and political commissars, united front workers, academics and businesspeople,” former CIA officer Peter Mattis testified to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence in 2019.

“CPPCC delegates attend a high-profile annual meeting to receive direction from the CCP regarding the ways its policies should be characterized to both domestic and foreign audiences,” according to the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission. “Delegates to the CPPCC serve as proxies for CCP interests by virtue of their participation in this forum, and they frequently act as interlocutors with foreign government officials, businesses, and academic institutions.”

Chinese media reports include photos of Chen attending CPPCC meetings while wearing the government agency’s distinctive red, clip-on delegate’s badge.

‘Growing Cause For Concern’

Chen has also held executive positions with the All-China Federation of Industry and Commerce (ACFIC), including with the group’s Shanghai branch, according to the Chinese-language news outlet Sohu.com.

ACFIC describes itself as an organization “led by the Communist Party of China” that “contributes greatly to the Party’s united front and economy related work as well as the cause of socialism with Chinese characteristics.”

John Dotson, deputy director of Global Taiwan Institute, is subordinate to the United Front Work Department (UFWD), which is a CCP agency whose operations are a “blend of engagement, influence activities and intelligence operations,” according to the House Select Committee on the CCP.

“In regards to the All-China Federation of Industry and Commerce, it’s definitely a subordinate agency of the UFWD — that’s not even a matter for analysis or interpretation,” Dotson told the DCNF. “In public Chinese sources, ACFIC is openly listed as a subordinate branch of the UFWD.”

ACFIC could not be reached for comment.

“The increase in PRC-affiliated U.S. land purchases in recent years is a growing cause for concern,” a House Select Committee on the CCP aide told the DCNF. “We can start with adding a presumption of denial for entities affiliated with the PRC when it comes to land acquisitions near national security sites such as military bases that the CCP could use for intelligence collection or worse.”

Philip Lenczycki on January 11, 2024

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