DeSantis considers banning 'hostile nation' China from buying Florida real estate, polishing tough-on-China foreign policy stance amid 2024 speculation

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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks during a press conference held at the Florida National Guard Robert A. Ballard Armory on June 07, 2021 in Miami, Florida. The governor had the press conference to speak about two bills he signed to combat foreign influence and corporate espionage in Florida from governments like China. Joe Raedle/Getty Images


© Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks during a press conference held at the Florida National Guard Robert A. Ballard Armory on June 07, 2021 in Miami, Florida. The governor had the press conference to speak about two bills he signed to combat foreign influence and corporate espionage in Florida from governments like China. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

  • DeSantis is considering asking the Florida legislature to ban China from real estate investments.
  • “We don’t want to have holdings by hostile nations,” the governor said. 
  • Top politicians are increasingly taking a hard line on China. 

Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis is poised to ask state lawmakers to ban China from buying farmland and residences in Florida, the governor confirmed Tuesday. 

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“We don’t want to have holdings by hostile nations,” DeSantis said during a press conference on Everglades restoration in Bonita Springs, Florida. “And so if you look at the Chinese Communist Party, they’ve been very active throughout the Western Hemisphere in gobbling up land and investing in different things.” 

The comments come several months after a report from the National Association of Realtors revealed that Chinese real-estate investors bought $6.1 billion in US real estate from March 2021 to March 2022. In all, foreign investors hold 5.7% of Florida’s privately held farmland, according to 2020 figures from the US Department of Agriculture. 

DeSantis’ statements are in line with the hawkish framing of national politicians when it comes to China, and could further speculation that he’ll soon mount a presidential run. The relationship between the two nations is fraught: Roughly two-thirds of adults in both China and the US view “the other side as an enemy or unfriendly,” according to a Morning Consult poll.

Both Republican and Democratic policymakers have raised national security concerns about instances of Chinese Communist Party-affiliated companies buying land near military bases in other states.

In October, Republicans on the US House Agriculture and Oversight Committee asked the Government Accountability Office to investigate international investments in US farmland, particularly from China, and House Democrats backed a measure to prevent China-owned companies from buying US farmland. 

On Tuesday, the House is expected to get bipartisan support to create a committee focused on the rise of China’s influence.

The conservative-leaning news outlet Florida’s Voice was first to report last week that DeSantis was considering asking the legislature for a new ban on Chinese real estate investments.

DeSantis has an enviable perch for a potential presidential run in his role as Florida’s chief executive, one that includes a supportive GOP supermajority in the legislature. The next few months of proposing and implementing his agenda is widely viewed in political circles as representative of the issues he plans to run on if he seeks the GOP nomination.

While foreign policy generally tends to be a small part of a governor’s role, such actions on China could add to DeSantis’ foreign policy portfolio. Before becoming governor, DeSantis representing Florida in the US House, where he served on the Foreign Affairs Committee and chaired the Subcommittee on National Security. 

A 2024 DeSantis presidential run would pit the governor against former President Donald Trump, who helped DeSantis gain notoriety when he first ran for his seat in 2018 but has since soured on the governor and called him disloyal for leaving the White House question open. 

Back in Washington, Republicans vowed to focus on China with their narrow majority in the US House, and several Republicans in Congress have introduced legislation to ban Chinese-owned social media company Tik Tok, citing concerns about surveillance and privacy. 

DeSantis on Tuesday said Chinese President Xi Jinping has taken “a much more Marxist, Leninist turn since he’s been ruling China.” He said it was not in Florida’s best interest to have “the Chinese Communist Party owning farmland, owning land close to military bases” and added that developments and subdivisions should also be areas of concern. 

“The issue is going to be, obviously, if someone comes in and buys it’s not the CCP that’s signing that, these are holding companies, so you have to structure that in a way that will effectively police it,” he said.  



The DeSantis family at the governor's second inauguration on January 3, 2023. Republican Party of Florida


© Republican Party of Florida
The DeSantis family at the governor’s second inauguration on January 3, 2023. Republican Party of Florida

No more Chinese-made toys for DeSantis children

More specifics about the governor’s policy on China are expected in the weeks ahead, particularly when DeSantis delivers his State of the State address ahead of Florida’s legislative session that begins in March.

The speech will contain specific requests the governor has for the legislature, though he has already said he’ll push for lower taxes and a law that will make it harder for teachers to enroll and stay in unions. 

DeSantis signed measures into law in June 2022 obligating companies that do more than $100,000 in business with Florida to disclose connections with China, and has required Florida universities to report donations of over $50,000 from China and other “foreign countries of concern.” He also banned the Chinese Communist Party’s Confucius Institute from Florida colleges and universities. 

The governor said Tuesday that there was an “appetite to do even more because their influence in our society has been very insidious,” citing the areas of entertainment and finance, in which companies make changes to placate China’s government. Florida, he said, was a “force to be reckoned with” because of its large economy. 

Prior to discussing his policy stance on Tuesday, DeSantis ranted against toys made in China, one of the largest exporters of good to Florida.

The governor shared that his three children — Madison, 6; Mason, 4; and Mamie, 2 — had behaved well during the ceremony and related festivities of his second gubernatorial swearing-in last week. The children stood alongside their parents at the events, leading to comparisons to the Kennedys. 

As a reward, he and Florida first lady Casey DeSantis bought their kids toys afterwards “to thank them for being so nice.” But the gifts, he said, were made in China and “a lot of it breaks, it’s cheap stuff.” 

“And I’m just thinking to myself like, ‘OK, you get it from China because it’s cheaper to pay,'” he said. “But if it doesn’t even last a week, then what difference does it make? Santa Claus may need to not do Chinese toys.”

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