Posted 30 days ago
Texas ranchers are on the brink of booting out a Chinese billionaire who has bought more than 130,000 acres of farmland in the state, sparking fears over national security, DailyMail.com can reveal.
Sun Guangxin, who has extensive ties with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), paid an estimated $110million for swathes of Texan real estate between 2016 and 2018 in an unprecedented foreign land grab in the Lone Star State.
But DailyMail.com understands he has now sold the most controversial part of his portfolio, a 15,000-acre ranch that included plans for a 46-turbine wind farm, and is planning to offload the rest of his vast Texan empire.
Opponents of the wind farm claim it would provide the former Chinese military captain access to the state electric grid, presenting a potential risk to energy security given Sun's well-documented loyalty to the Chinese state.
The fight is far from over, however, with campaigners claiming ongoing dealings could allow the billionaire to retain an interest in the property, providing Beijing with a backdoor to critical state infrastructure.
DailyMail.com can also reveal that a report written by former CIA officials alleged Sun would likely be considered an agent of the Chinese state by US authorities due to his close ties with the CCP and its military - and that his proposed wind farm could present a threat to national security.
It claimed the site, which is a mere 30 miles from a major US Air Force base, would also provide espionage opportunities for Beijing.
When DailyMail.com visited Val Verde County, a wild and desolate stretch of terrain in West Texas where Sun has amassed his property empire, it found locals united in anger at how a potentially hostile foreign actor had ever been allowed to set up camp in the heart of their community.
'We're all red-blooded Americans,' Dallas Barrington, a Texan attorney and rancher, said. 'That means we believe in America - and that we stand up against enemies of the state.'
The fight for Val Verde County is being played out across the country.
Earlier this month, DailyMail.com revealed that Chinese-owned companies now own more than $2billion of US farmland, up from just $162million a decade ago.
It comes amid wider concerns over CCP infiltration into American society, which was thrown into sharp relief when a suspected Chinese spy balloon was shot down over the Atlantic coast.
The CCP has a stake in 383,935 acres of American agricultural land as of December 2021, according to the latest figures released by the US Department of Agriculture.
But an astonishing 34 percent of that is owned by Sun, 61, who has an estimated net worth of $2.9billion, thanks largely to his controlling stake in Guanghui Group, an energy, automotive and real estate firm based in his home province of Xinjiang.
Through Brazos Highlands and another group subsidiary, Harvest Texas LLC, Sun controls nearly 7 percent of all land in Val Verde County.
The working-class son of a shoemaker began his business career in the late 1980s when he opened a seafood restaurant and other entertainment ventures, including a karaoke bar, swimming pool and bowling alley in Urumqi, the capital city of Xinjiang.
He used these venues to wine and dine the officials who frequented them, according to Eurasian Crossroads: A History of Xinjiang, a book by Georgetown professor James A. Millward.
Indeed, support of party officials has been crucial to his success, according to the intelligence report seen by DailyMail.com.
Sun established Guanghui Group in 1989 during the early years of privatization in China, when businessmen used political connections to gain access to state-owned enterprises.
This is likely how the firm gained access to the Chinese energy sector, the report claims.
But Sun's interest in the US could be gleaned from his westernized hobbies.
The energy mogul rides a Harley Davidson and is an avid basketball fan. He even owns the Xinjiang Flying Tigers, a Chinese Basketball Association team.
Sun is also a keen hunter and in 2006 spent more than $100,000 on a hunting trip to Tanzania, bringing back exotic trophies including a leopard, lion, elephant and cheetah, the intelligence officials said.
It is a blood sport he has since enjoyed at his sprawling hunting cabins in Texas.
Val Verde County, flanked by the Pecos and Devils Rivers, is home to around 50,000 people, the small town of Del Rio, and dozens of family-owned hunting ranches.
The conservation hotspot also provides a critical migratory corridor for monarch butterflies, bats, hundreds of bird species, and a growing number of black bears.
The Seven Oaks Ranch - named after the 400-year-old oak tree that towers over its three-bedroom living quarters - has been in the Walker family for three generations since 1934.
Brothers Wayne, 55, and Philip Walker, 51, inherited it when their father, Kelly, who passed away in 2020. Wayne and Dallas Barrington are co-managing directors.
Philip, who has won several awards for his conservation work alongside his brother, described Seven Oaks as 'one of the last wild and scenic areas in the state of Texas'.
'It can be dangerous, but it's also incredibly beautiful,' he said.
Far removed from civilization and home comforts, the ranch can be an inhospitable place.
Philip joked he had a hard enough time convincing his London-born wife to enjoy the eerie silence that comes from its remote location.
So, it is fair to say he and his family were stunned when they heard the neighboring property, Carma Ranch, had been bought by a Chinese billionaire in 2018.
But their ire was ignited when Sun, via his US company GH America, proposed a mammoth wind farm that would see 46 turbines, some up to 700 feet tall, tower over a landscape largely untouched by mankind.
Opposition to the Blue Hills Wind Development first formed along environmental lines.
Conservation groups, including The Nature Conservancy Texas, The Devils River Conservancy, Bat Conservation International and the North American Butterfly Association, lobbied against the plans, arguing it would ravage ecotourism and cause untold damage to migratory pathways of bats, birds and butterflies.... (Read more)