Salvo 04.12.2024 4 minutes

China Rising in the Plains

China, Beijing, Forbidden City, Golden Lion, Guardian

Beijing has hijacked American openness.

A recent, rather sobering report by The Frontier highlights the presence of Chinese criminals, with blessings from Beijing, who exert a particularly strong influence in Oklahoma. In 2018, the authors note, criminal organizations turned their attention to Oklahoma following the approval of a ballot measure by the state’s voters, legalizing the cultivation and sale of cannabis for medicinal purposes. Importantly and troublingly, the legislation did not impose restrictions on the number of dispensaries or growing operations. It simply mandated that cannabis businesses must have majority owners who have been residents of the state for at least two years and prohibited the transportation of the product across state borders.

Due to lax enforcement, out-of-state investors, including Chinese criminals, were able to engage in illegal activities by using “straw owners” and trafficked cannabis covertly across the nation. Additionally, the availability of inexpensive land facilitated the rapid growth of the industry, which is now considered by regulators to be the second largest in the state, trailing only behind the oil and gas sector. In November 2023, U.S. Senator James Lankford sounded the alarm over China’s farmland purchases. Sadly, his warnings went largely unnoticed. This should concern all readers, whether they live in Oklahoma or somewhere else in the United States.

Digging Deeper

In just a few years, the Sooner State has rapidly emerged as a leading provider of illegal cannabis. While street prices may vary and determining the worth of an underground market is intricate, The Frontier report states that the illicit cannabis cultivated in the state holds a value ranging anywhere from $18 billion to $44 billion annually. State investigators have uncovered connections between foreign criminal organizations and more than 3,000 unlawful cultivation operations, with a significant majority of these criminal groups originating from China.

These criminal groups have infiltrated Oklahoma’s cannabis market by utilizing illegal distribution networks, engaging in smuggling operations and establishing illicit dispensaries. Moreover, the cannabis business appears to serve as a front for money laundering activities. In short, the cash-intensive nature of the industry enables the legalization of illicit funds. Additionally, organized criminal organizations employ tactics such as extortion or protection schemes, specifically targeting lawful cannabis enterprises. As The Frontier piece demonstrates, gang members operating in Oklahoma are not afraid to resort to violence and even kill to get what they want.

And not just in Oklahoma.

As Donnie Anderson, the Director of the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, told The Frontier, Chinese criminals are running riot all across the country.

State and federal officials have revealed that the criminal syndicates, commonly referred to as “triads,” are part of a loosely organized yet highly disciplined confederation. These mobsters, who trace their origins to southern China, are overseen by mafia groups based in New York City. They have safe houses in Brooklyn, Queens, and Manhattan, as well as a number of covert smuggling tunnels scattered throughout the city.

The report paints an embarrassing picture of U.S. law enforcement officers who face challenges in addressing this complex and growing threat. According to current and former officials, both state and federal agencies are grappling with a shortage of personnel who possess a deep understanding of Chinese language and culture, which is crucial for effectively investigating intricate cases, infiltrating networks, and translating intercepted communications. Unfortunately, the focus on counterterrorism following the events of 2001 resulted in a decline in resources allocated to combating Chinese organized crime, allowing the underworld’s influence to expand.

This is a problem that needs to be addressed urgently. As mentioned, the influence of the Chinese state looms large over the situation. Another recent investigation by ProPublica clearly demonstrates a symbiotic relationship between the authoritarian regime and criminal organizations. Operating in the U.S., Chinese mobsters reportedly provide services such as facilitating illegal money transfers for the Chinese Communist Party elite and engaging in surveillance and intimidation of Chinese immigrant communities in exchange for government protection. This partnership has raised concerns among Western national security officials, Chinese dissidents, and human rights organizations. Given that China is now considered the primary geopolitical rival of the United States, engaging in bold espionage and influence operations within the country, the presence of Chinese criminal groups in Oklahoma and other areas should be viewed as a potential national security risk by state and federal authorities. 

Although the following is somewhat obvious, it needs to be said. The CCP would never allow American thugs to run riot in their country. They would never allow them to intimidate Chinese citizens, poison their people, and commit acts of brutal violence. They would round up such people and throw them in prison. As long as the United States continues to turn a blind eye, the despots in Beijing will continue to act in a destructive, disrespectful manner.

The American Mind presents a range of perspectives. Views are writers’ own and do not necessarily represent those of The Claremont Institute.

The American Mind is a publication of the Claremont Institute, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, dedicated to restoring the principles of the American Founding to their rightful, preeminent authority in our national life. Interested in supporting our work? Gifts to the Claremont Institute are tax-deductible.

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