What to Know in Washington: Heartland Frosty to China Investment

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Presidents Joe Biden and Xi Jinping are trying to ease tensions and calm trade fights between the world’s top economies. The collapse of a project in the American heartland shows just how deep a chill has set in.

Biden dispatched Secretary of State Antony Blinken for a visit to Beijing and a meeting with Xi last week and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen is planning her own visit in July, but underneath the pomp of top-tier visits by US officials, there is growing resentment among ordinary Americans and state and local politicians toward Chinese attempts at US investment.

There’s no clearer example of the grassroots shift in sentiment than in Grand Forks, North Dakota, where a failed agricultural complex led to new proposals at both the federal and state level to restrict China-linked development.

Photographer: Ben Brewer/Bloomberg

The city this year abandoned a project that, just two years earlier, it had aggressively sought as an economic bonanza: a $700 million corn mill that would have risen from rich farmland on the outskirts of the community. The mill faced a groundswell of opposition, especially regarding its owner: a Chinese company, Fufeng.

The saga combined swirling local concerns, opaque federal rules, saber-rattling politicians, and potential loopholes in security laws — ultimately concluding with an unusual public warning from the Air Force that the corn mill posed a national security threat.

The ripples reached beyond Grand Forks, as Biden’s administration in May quietly moved to tighten scrutiny of foreign property purchases near the city’s Air Force base and other military facilities.

The abandoned corn mill also illustrates a political shift. Politicians who once backed the project— including North Dakota’s governor, Doug Burgum, a Republican running for president — now oppose it. Some Republican-led states, including Burgum’s, seek to restrict or outright ban Chinese property purchases. The mayor of Grand Forks, Brandon Bochenski, says cities like his shouldn’t be left to determine foreign investment policy. Read the full story from Josh Wingrove.


  • The president departs the White House at 4 p.m. to travel to Camp David.
  • Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre gives a briefing at 3:15 p.m.

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To contact the reporter on this story: Brandon Lee in Washington at blee@bgov.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Kayla Sharpe at ksharpe@bloombergindustry.com

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