A town in North Dakota attracted a corn mill. Then came questions about its Chinese owners.

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At the request of the FBI, the meeting was held behind closed doors. Some residents who wanted to hear what the agency had to say staged a protest. And although Grand Forks officials said they felt there were no national security concerns about Fufeng, they acknowledged the FBI would not explicitly confirm it, leaving critics of the dissatisfied project.

Grand Forks is not a dying town in desperate need of work.

Unlike Maine, where Chinese investors resurrected an old factory a few years ago, or Ohio, where a Chinese glassmaker opened up shop in an abandoned General Motors factory, there is no crisis of employment in Grand Forks. The city is growing, the unemployment rate in the metro is below the national average, and employers are hiring. In addition to jobs in agriculture and the military, residents work in manufacturing or at the University of North Dakota, known for its aviation program and powerful hockey team.

Still, Mr. Bochenski, the mayor, pointed to the economic benefits of Fufeng for his city, where 18% of residents live in poverty, well above the national rate. Farmers welcomed the project as a new place to sell their corn, which grows in abundance in the fertile soil along the Red River. And Governor Burgum, a former businessman, has repeatedly championed the project.

“With Fufeng in Grand Forks, it will be North Dakota – not China – that reaps the benefits of the jobs, facilities, economic activity and tax revenue associated with corn processing,” the governor said. in a press release.

It is quite common for a Chinese company to do business in the United States and for an American company to do business in China.

But as diplomatic ties have frayed, US officials, especially Republicans, have questioned whether the US has grown too close economically to China and whether seemingly innocuous Chinese investments could be used for nefarious purposes.


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