Chinese Exclusion

A bill in Alabama would bar Chinese nationals from buying property in the state.

Via WSFA: Chinese ownership of Alabama land, resources banned in proposed legislation.

[HB 379 aka, the “Alabama Property Protection Act”] would prohibit non-resident citizens of China, the Chinese government, or Chinese entities from buying property in Alabama. It’s similar to the “Not One More Inch or Acre” legislation that has been introduced by U.S. Sen. Katie Britt, R-Alabama, and U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Arkansas.

In other words, it is a bigoted piece of xenophobic legislation that has already passed the Alabama House and I fear will pass the state’s Senate:

The legislation passed the House 73-23 with six abstentions. It will be voted on by a Senate committee before consideration for final passage.

The bill’s sponsor, State Representative Scott Stadthagen (R-Hartselle) is the majority leader of the Alabama House and defends it thusly:

“I don’t believe we should allow buyers from Communist China to purchase Alabama land and resources to use for their purposes,” Stadthagen said. “Our agricultural and manufacturing resources are critical to the success of our state and our nation. We are also home to multiple military installations and soon be home to Space Command. This bill ensures that those facilities, those resources and those installations will not be neighbors with the [Chinese Communist Party].”

The illogic of using the power of the state to bar market-based transactions to fight communism is almost enough to break the irony meter.

And rather than “protect” Alabama from the CCP (whatever that means), all this does is punish immigrants who want to work in Alabama (for example, doctors and college professors, including many of my colleagues and potential colleagues). *

In the link above there is a video of a member of the House asking how the bill does not violate federal law and targets people based on race. The Republican defender counters that the bill does not target individuals, but instead targets a “communist country” and “prevents a communist country from purchasing land in Alabama”** (a set of statements that don’t really make any sense).

Again, one would think that Defenders of Capitalism(TM) would be all about Alabama landowners being able to dispose of their property as they see fit, but I guess that’s not the right kind of freedom. Regardless, apart from simple xenophobia, I am not sure what this accomplished. It hardly disentangles the Chinese and American economies. It really does nothing more than feed bigoted emotions.

It isn’t the free market.

It utterly misunderstands the global political economy.

It is mean-spirited and, dare I say, stupid.

And given the prevalence of Christianity in my state, I would note that it isn’t very Christian, at least not if one takes seriously Jesus’ teaching of how we should treat our fellow humans. As I recall, the phrase is “love your neighbor as yourself” not “love your neighbor, unless they are from mainland China, at which point you should institute laws that demonstrate they are unloved and not to be treated as an equal human being.”

All of this is quite disturbing, and becoming all too common.

FWIW, I cannot see how this legislation survives federal court scrutiny, but recent behavior by the courts makes me less confident than I would have been even a few years ago.

*Dr. Guo-Brennan (misidentified as Duo-Brennan in the piece) is an adjunct at my place of employment, and spouse to a colleague in my college.

**Somewhat apropos of James Joyner’s post about quotes from earlier, I will note that I cleaned up that quote, as the Representative in question seemed to have a very hard time saying the word “purchasing.”

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Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. Ken_L says:

    It’s perhaps worth noting that China has more stringent limits on any foreign ownership of property.

    What are the Restrictions on Buying a Property in China as a Foreigner?

    The property must be residential
    If the property is commercial, a foreigner must incorporate in China
    You may own only one property
    You must possess a long-term visa
    You cannot be a landlord, as a foreigner
    You must pay a 1% deposit and an initial 30% of the purchase price to the seller in RMB, if you are obtaining a mortgage

  2. gVOR08 says:

    Johnny come latelies. DeUseless signed a similar bill a week ago. Chinese nationals, and others, cannot buy agricultural land, and otherwise only a plot no bigger than two acres and at least five miles from any military installation. I have no idea if that includes national guard, or his new state guard, facilities.

    (This couldn’t wait til morning?)

  3. gVOR08 says:

    I should have added, as someone here commented a few days ago in I forget what context, this seems like something easily bypassed with a decent lawyer and a shell company, assuming the courts don’t toss it. I don’t think DeSantis is dumb enough to think this will restrict Chinese ownership, but he does expect it to work as a MAGA pander.

  4. Kazzy says:


    And WHY is that worth noting?

  5. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Kazzy: I was wondering the same thing, given that South Korea has similar restrictions from what I remember.

  6. Gustopher says:

    And rather than “protect” Alabama from the CCP (whatever that means), all this does is punish immigrants who want to work in Alabama

    Alternately, it protects immigrants from some unfounded notion that Alabama is a welcoming place for them. This bill does nothing to combat the reputation of Alabama as a bunch of backwards inbred racists, and everything to confirm it, just in case someone forgot, or thought that was all settled last century.

    If you’re going to be a bunch of bigots, wear that bigotry on your sleeve so everyone knows to avoid you*.

    * That’s a general “you”, not Dr. Taylor

  7. James Joyner says:

    While I’m skeptical that state governments have the power to do this, what with foreign relations being the province of the Federal government, “non-resident citizens of China, the Chinese government, or Chinese entities” is an odd grouping. I fully understand why you’d want to ban the CCP and its affiliates from owning certain properties. But what are “non-resident citizens of China”?

    If some random person visiting from China wants to buy an American entity, there’s a reasonable basis for suspecting they’re foreign agents acting at the behest of the government. Absent your framing, I would assume “non-resident” excluded those here on a working visa and the like. But, presumably, that’s not what it means?

    Indeed, from the article:

    This bill to prevent Chinese purchasing power will also impact Alabama residents that are Chinese Citizens. Dr. Bowei Tan has lived in Alabama for 10 years and is doctor at Jackson Hospital.

    “We are doctors, we are teachers, we are professors, we are realtors. We’re holding legal papers to stay here, we pay taxes here,” said Tan. “It is not right for us to not have a house. Denying our right to home ownership I think is not right.”

    He fears this bill will impact the statewide shortage of doctors.

    “Excellent young physician just finished a training New York City and I present a job and I talked about this and he was absolutely no,” said Tan.

    The land includes a home, which is why some Chinese Alabama residents are concerned.

    “I’m afraid this kind of discrimination will spread to the other Asian ethnic groups,” said Linyaun Duo-Brennan, an adjunct professor. “You cannot tell based on the look, so the only way you have to ask a certain people to demonstrate their loyalty.”

    That’s . . . just nuts.

  8. Barry says:

    @Ken_L: “It’s perhaps worth noting that China has more stringent limits on any foreign ownership of property.”

    No, it’s not worth noting.

  9. BugManDan says:

    @Ken_L: Difference being that it excludes all foreigners not just Americans, Alabamians, or members of the neo-nazi Maga party.

  10. @Ken_L: I am not surprised by this fact, but I am not sure about its relevance. After all, is the suggestion that the US should function as does an authoritarian country ruled by a single party?

  11. @James Joyner:

    That’s . . . just nuts.

    It is. Indeed, we have an offer out to a Chinese national (and green card holder) who I am guessing will now decline.

    Plus, given the existing presence of Chinese-owned companies in the state, all this law does is stop future foreign investment out of nothing more than paranoia.

  12. Scott says:

    Texas passed similar law. As I wrote previously, any good lawyer and shell companies can hide the identity of any ownership.

    My real question is: Is China communist? Sure, the ruling government calls itself the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) but that is like calling Republicans the party of Lincoln. The best description of China’s system of government is techno-authoritarian capitalism. Which is something quite different.

  13. @BugManDan: Also a good point.

  14. Jay L Gischer says:

    Well, as much as I agree that this is a problem, I also feel a certain bit of relief that China is not getting the same kind of reversal of attitude that Russia currently is.

    I mean how hard would it be to sell something like “Biden doesn’t like them, they must be ok”? Also, I seem to recall that the Chinese govt doesn’t like gay people, and kind of denies their existence. I guess they can’t sell themselves as a Christian Nation, though.

  15. wr says:

    @Kazzy: “And WHY is that worth noting?”

    Because BOTH SIDES DO IT so there’s nothing wrong with racist exclusionary rules. You know, like some country executes women for not wearing head scarves so it’s okay that we force them to give birth even if it’s going to a dead fetus and will kill them.

  16. Mike Burke says:

    This issue has had legs in Missouri. in 2014, the legislature changed the law to allow foreign ownership of farmland in the state in order to let Smithfield, now a Chinese-owned company, purchase land for hog farms (it was otherwise going to Nebraska). Then in the 2022 Senate campaign, the Democratic candidate reminded everyone via her ads that Republican Eric Schmitt had voted for this change in law. That was not enough to keep Schmitt from being elected. This year’s legislative session just ended without passing a bill to forbid any new foreign ownership, though the bill progressed pretty far: BTW, one of our biggest buyers for agricultural products is–China.

  17. Ken_L says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Well no, the suggestion is that many countries limit the ability of foreigners to own real estate. In the Philippines, for example, it’s not allowed at all, period. Australia has stringent limitations – Mexico has “restricted zones” –,and%20responsibilities%20as%20Mexican%20nationals. In Indonesia, foreigners can’t own land, only apartments – Canada has almost a complete ban –

    I suppose all these laws might be “mean-spirited”, “bigoted”, “stupid” and “unChristian”. Alternatively, they might be legitimate measures that serve the interests of the countries in question. Or a bit of each. But I’m not aware of any legal or moral principle that gives anyone a right to go and buy real estate in a foreign country. The issue surely deserves an objective analysis based on evidence and logic, not emotively dismissed as xenophobic.

  18. Richard Gardner says:

    There has been significant Chinese money laundering on the West Coast that then gets put into real estate. That is, money taken out of China violating Chinese rules (or offshoring out of China), that may be properly declared upon entry into the USA or Canada. Some Canadian casinos are referred to as laundromats, and a 2022 Canadian repsrt estimated the amount in the Billions.

    In 2020 a large apartment complex (135 until) near me was completed by a group of local builders (I’m acquainted with a couple of them). A year and a half later they got an unsolicited offer via a laywer from what they though was 2x the value and they sold. Looking up the LLC registered agent I was able to find (at least) 5 other new apartment complexes in the Puget Sound area that were purchased about the same time ($150-250M), with the trail going to someone from China living in the SF Bay area in a $1M house. Suspicious.

  19. @Ken_L:

    not emotively dismissed as xenophobic.

    I object to the characterization and would note that, as others did above, there is a difference between national security-based choices and singling out specific ethnic groups.

    Likewise, it is not the domain of the states to set foreign policy.