One of the most popular items on this blog is a 2013 post about a Chinese company purchasing Smithfield, the largest meat processing company in the world. A long-time Virginia company, its headquarters are located in the Tidewater region of the commonwealth. The blog post still generates weekly hits, about half from China. I also receive e-mail about it every now and then. Technically, the company is now a Chinese entity owned by the Shuanghui Group; so Smithfield is a Chinese company with a Virginia presence.
At the annual Virginia Republican Advance last week, a colleague asked me why I wrote it? Frankly, I like the Chinese people but really do not like the Chinese government. A Communist totalitarian system and serial violator of civil liberties (a.k.a., human rights), I’m not interested in taking any of their money. Food security is extremely important to the national interest. In a future post, we will detail why it may make sense to turn away certain types of foreign investors especially when it involve industries critical to homeland security. The federal government has a mechanism in place to address these issues; however, the laws and regulations that govern the screening process are woefully out date.
Access to the U.S. market, at least in my book, is a privilege, not a right. We can pick and choose who we allow to invest in our nation. Foreign investment affords China unprecedented access to our nation that, in the process, weakens U.S. national security. Just because the Chinese are large holder of American Treasury notes, does not mean we have to roll over and let them do whatever they want.
So why did China scoop up the largest pork processing company in the world? We can only guess. These folks are extremely secretive and transparency is not a hallmark of the culture. It takes time to build trust with them. A lot of it. It could be economics, however, it was likely a combination of economics, politics, and foreign policy. The strategically timed acquisition afforded the Chinese government much-needed domestic political cover after many food safety incidents in China. They also need to import a lot of food because they are not very efficient producers.
For these and many other reasons, the Smithfield buy is consistent with Chinese economic imperialism. It is no coincidence that a few months after the purchase, the Shuanghui Group reorganized and changed its name to an innocuous sounding English-language “WH Group Limited.” It was likely part of a public relations move to better hide that the government of China owns the business. By the way, the chairman of the company, Mr. Wan Long, is an active member of the Communist Party of China and former member of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).
While it may have made strategic sense for Nixon to go to China during the height of the Cold War, U.S. foreign policy has been mostly stuck in that mindset, to our detriment, ever since. We thought throwing money at the problem would lead to political change and, in some instances, it has helped; however, China remains a gulag for freedom-loving people. Dissent, crushed. Freedom of religion, non-existent. That is why China does not have an immigration problem. No one who knows truth would pack up and head to China.
Our allies in the south Pacific and the greater Asia region are also under constant threat. Right here, in the Western Hemisphere, China is pillaging natural resources and waging an ugly war, albeit a subtle one, to assert itself economically and politically in America’s immediate and most important sphere of influence. Why are they doing it? Because, among other things, China does not like freedom and is upset that America is helping nations attain and keep it.
As for the ham folks at Smithfield? The good news is that people of Smithfield still have jobs; however, concern remains about China’s long-term plans in rural Virginia. A recent Voice of America story says that there has been “little change” since Smithfield ownership switched to Chinese financiers. That may be true, on the surface; however, we’re in this for the long game, not just a few years or a few cents. The town and people of Smithfield are not important to China. The acquisition of the factory is nothing more than a tactical move by the Chinese. Sure they want pork products, but the Chinese also want a commercial perch in the heart of the Tidewater region of Virginia, home of the world’s largest naval station. Once the Smithfield project outlives its economic and political usefulness, China will, hopefully, sell it to someone else. However, it what cost?
In the meantime, the Virginia legislature and, at some point the U.S. Congress, should start keeping a very close eye on this particular foreign investment effort by China. In fact, Chinese investment in the United States should be the subject of annual Congressional oversight hearings. I’d say our governor should as well, but he’s too busy trying to invite more Communist China investment to our state, as is the Clinton family. If you’re ever in the area, you should visit the town of Smithfield. It is a great place full of friendly people and, of course, tasty food.