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    To Protect Drones, Obama Blocked a Chinese Company From Buying a Windfarm

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    Adam Clark Estes

    p>A funny thing happened in Oregon last week. For the first time in 22 years, the president put a stop to a foreign acquisition of a business in the United States with an executive order. In doing so, Obama stopped a Chinese company from owning and operating a windfarm in Oregon that happens to be within spitting distance of Naval Weapons Systems Training Facility, a top secret naval base used to test drones and train for electronic warfare.

    The order says that “there is credible evidence” that the Chinese “might take action that threatens to impair the national security of the United States.” How’s that? Well, the owner of Ralls, the company in question, Liang Wengen. Liang, who is China’s second richest man, was recently appointed to the Central Committee of China’s Communist party, and a top Communist party official buying land right next to a top-secret military base apparently didn’t sit well with the Navy, which panned the deal months ago before a governmental panel recommended to axe the deal.

    Sure, it’s a bit of a bummer to see a windfarm get caught in the crosshairs of Chinese-American relations. Wind farms are really cool! (Although it is hardly the first time that Chinese-American relations have been strained over wind power.) Once you let your imagination really run away with the idea, though, you can sort of see where the president is coming from. These wind farms are either inside or within five miles of the naval base’s air space. What’s to stop the Chinese from installing some cameras on top of the windmills for surveillance purposes, a measure that would handily give them a direct feed of top secret military exercises in the area? Well, in this case, it’s President Obama.

    Wengen disagrees with Obama’s assessment. Ralls promptly sued President Obama in an attempt to overturn the order or be compensated for its losses, which could amount to as much as $25 million. “The president is not above the law, even if national security is involved,” a person familiar with the case told the Financial Times. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the courts don’t tend to side with the president when it comes to issues of national security — because they do. And frankly, the Chinese should’ve seen this coming. The Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. already told Ralls to stop building its windfarm and said it would need government approval before selling any of the property involved.

    Pending its appeal to U.S. courts, Ralls has 90 days to sell off its windfarm property and clear its equipment — all of it — within another 14 days. The president’s order also stipulates that U.S. officials are allowed to interview the company’s employees and look through its documents to make sure that everything is done by the book. If Liang doesn’t like this outcome, maybe his $8.1 billion net worth and newfound political power can cheer him up.

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