South Carolina Senate Approves Bill to Restrict Land Sales to ‘Foreign Adversaries’

Caden Pearson
By Caden Pearson
March 28, 2023US News
South Carolina Senate Approves Bill to Restrict Land Sales to ‘Foreign Adversaries’
The State Capitol Building in Columbia, S.C., on June 24, 2009. (Davis Turner/Getty Images)

The South Carolina Senate has passed a bill that would partly ban companies or citizens of China and other so-called foreign adversaries from acquiring real property in the state.

The bill was introduced after a Chinese biomedical company, AnPac, announced its agreement to pay $28 million for 500 acres in McCormick County.

The state’s GOP-controlled Senate approved the measure on March 23 in a 31–5 vote.

The ban would impact citizens and corporations from countries listed as adversarial by the U.S. Department of Commerce, such as China, Russia, Cuba, Iran, and North Korea.

However, the final version of the bill includes an exemption that allows companies already operating in South Carolina as of the end of 2022 to expand with approval from the secretary of commerce and the governor.

Furthermore, it also permits citizens of foreign adversaries who have attained lawful permanent resident status in the United States to purchase up to five acres for residential use.

The measure would put a cap on the total amount of real property that can be acquired, reducing it from 500,000 acres to 1,000 acres.

“Otherwise, companies and citizens of foreign adversaries could not purchase real property,” said the bill’s leading sponsor, South Carolina Senate Majority Leader Shane Massey.

The bill does not require existing landowners to sell any of their property and only pertains to future acquisitions.

‘Trojan Horse’ Land Sales

Massey was motivated to take action after learning that a Chinese biomedicine company had agreed to purchase 500 acres of land for $28 million near the U.S. Army’s Cyber Command headquarters in the state. He compared certain foreign land acquisitions to the Trojan Horse from Greek mythology.

“We need to look inside that wooden horse before we let it in the gate. And there are some countries that have given us more of a reason to look inside the wooden horse before we let it in the gate,” Massey said. “These five have specifically given us reason to have more scrutiny and to be a little bit more concerned.”

Security concerns have been heightened in the United States ever since a recent incident where a Chinese spy balloon flew over American territory, including over sensitive military facilities, before being shot down near the coast of South Carolina. That event has drawn attention to concerns about Chinese surveillance efforts in the United States through the acquisition of land.

Massey said South Carolina’s new law will only apply to countries on the federal government’s list and could apply to any that are added to it.

State Sen. Mike Fanning, a Democrat who opposed the measure, expressed concern for rural communities that have limited options for foreign investments. His Democrat colleague, state Sen. Dick Harpootlian, questioned the premise that a Chinese company’s acquisition of land equated to “establishing a nest of spies.”

“This is a bumper sticker,” said Harpootlian, who expressed his distaste for the Chinese Communist Party. “This is not legislation that is going to improve the quality of life for anybody in this state.”

Harpootlian said the issue would be better left to federal lawmakers.


The bill is titled “Alien Ownership of Real Property” and aims to reduce the amount of real property that a non-U.S. citizen (“alien”) or corporation can acquire an interest in from 500,000 acres to 1,000 acres.

The legislation further includes provisions that ban corporations controlled by foreign adversaries from acquiring any interest in real property in South Carolina.

The bill’s text defines a “corporation controlled by a foreign adversary” as a legal entity engaged in commerce that is wholly owned by a foreign adversary, has a foreign adversary as a dominant shareholder, is wholly owned by a citizen of a foreign adversary, or has one or more citizens of a foreign adversary whose cumulative ownership is as a dominant shareholder.

“Foreign adversary” is defined as any foreign government or non-government person determined by the U.S. Secretary of Commerce to have engaged in a long-term pattern or serious instances of conduct significantly adverse to the national security of the United States or the security and safety of United States citizens.

A “dominant shareholder” is the single owner of 10 percent or more of a legal entity engaged in commerce’s stock, securities, or other ownership indicia or multiple owners of 20 percent or more of the same.

The new provisions do not apply to a citizen of a foreign adversary who is also a citizen of the United States or resides in the United States, has been granted lawful permanent resident status by the U.S. government, and acquires no more than five acres for residential use.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

From The Epoch Times