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A North Dakota City Attracted a Corn Mill. Then Came Questions About Its Chinese Owners.

By: Sophie Yang

For years, the council of a small North Dakota town has been eyeing a piece of cropland north of Grand Forks, but when it attracted the interest of a Chinese company, many objections against this “huge opportunity for all of North Dakota” quickly arose from the wheat fields.

Last year, Fufeng USA, the American subunit of a Chinese agricultural company that makes animal feed, decided to build a corn mill in the field owned by Grand Forks, much to the celebration of the town’s many residents.

However, as time went on, the exciting new business prospect became a source of irritation and hatred within the entire Grand Forks community. The initial proposal that local politicians “lauded as an unambiguous win” divided the town into “fiery discussions about communism and spying”according to New York Times journalist Mitch Smith. Some people liked the idea of more job opportunities, while others protested with Anti-Fuheng signs and hammer-and-sickle flags.

Only about three percent of Grand Forks, a town with over 59000 residents, was Asian, while the greatly overshadowing white population took up 82 percent.

In just a few months, the raging Grand Forks debate from North Dakota reached the premises of Capitol Hill, revealing just how “mistrustful and dysfunctional America’s relationship with China has become,” Mitch Smith from the New York Times states.

As the relationship between the two strongest economic countries currently dominating the world market and trades turn sharply negative, the hostility between the people of the two nations grows.

The pandemic and media also contributed to these narrow-minded views by instigating “a rise in anti-Asian racism” and spreading news of “Beijing’s embrace of a tougher authoritarianism.”

Ms. Dachtler, the city council’s only Asian-American and South Korean member, says, “Hate can only percolate—and I’m going to call it hate and people are going to cringe and not like that all—but hate can only percolate underground for so long. At some point the pressure has to be relieved. And Fufeng has served as a catalyst for some of these folks to release that pressure. Semantics matter to people, and the things we say to people make them feel welcomed or like they don’t belong here.”


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