Grand Forks is a Large North Dakota Town on the Red River at the Intersection of Highway 2 and Interstate 29 one Hour south of the Canada Border
Grand Forks is a Large North Dakota Town on the Red River at the Intersection of Highway 2 and Interstate 29 one Hour south of the Canada Border

A Chinese Trojan Horse in Grand Forks, North Dakota?

Originally published at Townhall

When Chris Wray, the current director of the FBI who has served under Republican and Democrat administrations, emphatically speaks out about the greatest threat to America, people should listen. Director Wray has said repeatedly to different audiences around the country: “There is just no country that presents a broader threat to our ideas, innovation, and our economic security than China… Chinese government hackers have stolen more of our personal and corporate data than all other countries combined.”

To obtain the most coveted data and information, which is defense and military-related, the Chinese employ multi-level strategies involving what they call United Front operations and infiltration in diverse sectors from political associations to individual politicians, from industry associations to specific businesses, and from academic institutions to the media. The circumstances leading up to the entry of a Chinese company, Fufeng Group, into the U.S. market is particularly instructive in showing how the CCP United Front operates through infiltration.

Creating a false front, as the ancient Greeks did in 1184 B.C. in building a Trojan horse to clandestinely enter the city of Troy to bring its downfall is a good analogy to what is likely going on in Grand Forks North Dakota, with the Chinese Company Fufeng getting a foothold with property acquisition and obtaining a permit for the construction of their first wet corn mill processing plant about 13 miles from the Grand Forks Air Force Base (GFAFB). That base plays a central role in America’s defense, providing home to the 319th Air Base Wing, the only Air Mobility Command to have remotely piloted aircraft systems, such as RQ-4 Global Hawk Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, that contain the military’s most sophisticated military drone technology. Having a location some 13 miles from GFAFB can enable the Chinese to intercept digital uplinks and downlinks inherent with unmanned drones and air systems and their interactions with space-based assets. Since the Chinese PLA drone and space-based technology is well behind that of the U.S. this of course is one of the highest value targets for Chinese espionage.

So how did this come about?

The Chinese penetration of North Dakota and other states follows classic United Front strategy that gained enormous momentum during the Obama administration, which expanded student exchanges and Sister City Friendship programs to some 200 American cities. In 2010, then North Dakota Governor Hoeven struck a deal to establish a Confucius Institute at Dickinson State University that greatly expanded the enrollment of Chinese students. That program ended up in egregious enrollment irregularities, faked grades and diplomas being awarded to hundreds of Chinese students who failed to meet the basic qualifications for graduation. In addition, there was a massive coverup of missing money and hundreds of students who obtained F1 Education visas, but were not accounted for and appear to have disappeared into America.

While this huge scandal brought about the firing of DSU President Richard McCallum and the suicide of DSU Dean Doug LaPlante, no one ultimately faced any charges, prosecutions or fines. Those involved at DSU carried on as though the fraud never happened, and the state’s elected officials harbored the same inclinations.

It’s likely that none of this missed the attention of the Chinese. At a minimum, the Chinese were emboldened by what they could see as free floating standards of morality and lax law enforcement by people in authority positions at Dickinson and in the North Dakota government.

During this time the CCP United Front group known as the Chinese Peoples Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries continued its annual meetings with the U.S. association known as the State Legislative Leaders Foundation. In addition, the U.S. Governors Association was meeting with its Chinese counterparts (most of whom are likely members of the CCP). Relations between the Chinese and state government officials grew through these meetings, laying the foundation for the Chinese Fufeng Group to establish its American subsidiary, Fufeng USA in Chicago in 2020 and then make entry into Grand Forks in 2022. Fufeng Group’s primary products include monosodium glutamate and xanthan gum. Neither of those products will be manufactured at the proposed Grand Forks plant.

Fufeng USA’s quiet entry into Grand Forks enabled the 330-acre land purchase made up from adjacent parcels from three sellers to get executed early in early 2022 without much fanfare. But that all began to change in June 2022, with numerous dissidents and opponents testifying at the Grand Forks City Council meetings. Eric Chutorash, the Chief Operating Officer of Fufeng USA in charge of the Grand Forks plant project, was asked about why Grand Forks was chosen as their first foray into the U.S. market. He acknowledged that of the 25-odd sites under review, Grand Forks was not an ideal location, but by their calculations they could make it work.

It’s no secret that China has been aggressively buying up farmland in America. But Fufeng USA’s purchase in Grand Forks is not in keeping with that model, being a relatively small parcel of less than ideal cropland. It is, however, a suitable site for commercial building with relatively close proximity to a US Air Force Base that now hosts a vital unit of the US Space Force, which together are responsible for America’s most sophisticated drone and space-related technology.

Another person testifying before the City Council meeting expressed concern that Chinese people might be brought in to work in the plant in various capacities including engaging in espionage on the Grand Forks Air Force Base. Chutorash was quick to answer that there were no Chinese people working for Fufeng USA now, nor would there be in the future. In his testimony, Chutorash also expressed a lack of understanding about how the CCP controls Chinese companies like Fufeng, and its American subsidiary.

It was observed off the record that Chutorash was seen in Grand Forks being accompanied by two native Chinese. On the video recording of the Chutorash testimony before the City Council meeting, those two Chinese men are sitting in the front row, off center, which is often a preferred observation place for enforcers.

Scott S. Powell

Senior Fellow, Center on Wealth and Poverty
Scott Powell has enjoyed a career split between theory and practice with over 25 years of experience as an entrepreneur and rainmaker in several industries. He joins the Discovery Institute after having been a fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution for six years and serving as a managing partner at a consulting firm, RemingtonRand. His research and writing has resulted in over 250 published articles on economics, business and regulation. Scott Powell graduated from the University of Chicago with honors (B.A. and M.A.) and received his Ph.D. in political and economic theory from Boston University in 1987, writing his dissertation on the determinants of entrepreneurial activity and economic growth.