This opinion is widely shared by many who know that Americans will resist, with their last breath, any foreign invader who comes ashore intending the conquest or destruction of our nation. But what if the goal is not to take us by force, but to slowly, over time, become our keepers?
With the current amount of our nation's debt owned by the Chinese, some are very concerned about the implications, especially with Chinese President Hu Jintao's state visit going on in Washington, D.C.
Now we learn that unnamed Chinese investors are interested in purchasing waterfront property in Toledo.
To a city that never got out of the last recession, this one has hit us especially hard, so news of investors is welcomed by many. But Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur (D-OH9) isn't so thrilled, "because she believes it would be a calculated move by the government, rather than individuals looking for opportunity."
There is validity to her concern. While I certainly don't mind a corporation or individual investing in our area or purchasing property, I do mind if a foreign government does. The only exception I would see to a foreign government - especially a communist one - owning land is if they are building an embassy on it. But that's not what is planned in this instance.
Before we leap without looking, we need to give serious thought to multiple aspects of any potential transaction.
The first thing we need to know about these potential investors is whether or not they are a state-owned enterprise (one of the roughly 150 companies that report directly to the Chinese central government) or one of the subsidiaries (one owned by a municipal or provincial government in which the central government is a major shareholder).
Should we have a healthy distrust of a potential investor that is actually controlled by a communist government structure? Or, in this era of a global economy, do we overlook the communistic aspect in favor of potential jobs and tax revenues?
As this 2008 Forbes article explains, it's not so clear anymore:
In one portrayal, they are infiltrators to be viewed with suspicion. An example: Aluminum Corporation of China's (nyse: ACH - news - people ) recent multibillion-dollar purchase of a stake in Rio Tinto (nyse: RTP - news - people ) has raised fears about China's agenda for the acquisition of Australia's resources.
The other version sees state-owned companies as muscle-bound goons: without the smarts of a private company but with plenty of brawn. In this characterization, they are relics of a failed economic experiment that still dominate the national economy--controlling natural resources, utilities and many other vital sectors. Their power and influence--particularly their links to the ruling Communist Party and government--give partners and competitors pause.
Both views, however, fail to recognize that as the Chinese economy evolves, it is no longer so easy or desirable to pigeonhole state-owned enterprises. The line between them and private sector companies has blurred considerably.
There is also the question of which properties we should allow them to purchase if we decide we do want their presence.
As above, are they interested in acquiring our natural resources? Our relatively inexpensive waterfront property is a rarity in the world, much less here in the United States and I've been amazed that it hasn't been bought up before now. It's also our greatest asset and something I worked to emphasize when I was in office. But do we want our most valuable asset owned by a company controlled by a communist foreign government?
Restricting the sale of such property isn't a new idea. The government of Mexico has a restriction in their Constitution that prohibits foreigners from owning waterfront land. As this website explains:
The law declares that the Mexican nation has original ownership to all land and water in Mexico, as well as minerals, salts, ore deposits, natural gas and oil; but that such ownership may be assigned to individuals.
The Mexican Constitution prohibits direct ownership of real estate by foreigners in what has come to be known as the "restricted zone." The restricted zone encompasses all land located within 100 kilometers (about 62 miles) of any Mexican border, and within 50 kilometers (about 31 miles) of any Mexican coastline. However, in order to permit foreign investment in these areas, the Mexican government created the "fideicomiso," (FEE-DAY-E-CO-ME-SO) which is, roughly translated, a real estate trust. Essentially, this type of trust is similar to trusts set up in the United States, but a Mexican bank must be designated as the trustee and, as such, has title to the property and is the owner of record. The Mexican Government created the "fideicomiso" to reconcile the problems involved in developing the restricted zone and to attract foreign capital. This enabled foreigners, as beneficiaries of the trusts, to enjoy unrestricted use of land located in the restricted zone without violating the law.
A "fideicomiso" is a trust agreement created for the benefit of a foreign buyer, executed between a Mexican bank and the seller of property in the restricted zone. Foreign buyers cannot own real estate in the restricted zone due to Constitutional restrictions. The bank acts on behalf of the foreign buyer, taking title to real property. The bank, as trustee, buys the property for the foreigner, then has a fiduciary obligation to follow instructions given by the foreigner who is the trust beneficiary. The trust beneficiary retains and enjoys all the rights of ownership while the bank holds title to the property. The foreigner is entitled to use, enjoy, and even sell the property that is held in trust at its market value to any eligible buyer.
In order to allow foreigners to enter into the agreement contained in the Calvo Clause, Mexico requires all foreigners to apply for and obtain a permit from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs prior to contracting to acquire real estate in Mexico.
While we have no such prohibitions in our Constitution, the City of Toledo is the owner of the properties in question and, as owner, can place restrictions on the sale of the property. The city could even retain ownership of the land and offer, for example, a 99-year lease, preserving the ability of both parties (seller and buyer) to protect their interests in the transaction.
The potential sale of city-owned property to a foreign entity might be an issue that will unite previously opposing groups. I can see developers, free-market supporters, environmentalists and public access groups joining together to ensure the land is not owned outright by a foreign government whose long-term interests might conflict with our own. The communist Chinese government is well-known for taking a very long-term approach to accomplishing their goal of dominance.
There will be those who embrace the idea without any details, simply because it may bring needed jobs and tax revenues to the area. There will be others who reject it outright because it's communist China.
I believe the proper approach is somewhere in between: welcoming the interest of foreign investors while protecting American land from ownership by a foreign government. If it's done correctly, we can all be happy with the outcome.