China’s government has little incentive to stop the country’s drug cartels from fueling the US fentanyl crisis


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Big Chinese drug rings are helping to fuel the fentanyl crisis in the United States, something Beijing has little interest in combating amid deteriorating relations with Washington.

“Since about 2013, China has been the primary source of fentanyl flooding the US illicit drug market,” Craig Singleton, senior fellow at the nonpartisan Defense of Democracies Foundation, told Fox News Digital.

Singleton’s assessment on the matter is shared by the US government, with a 2020 report from the Drug Enforcement Administration finding that China is the main source of trafficking of fentanyl and fentanyl-related substances to the United States, while also being the biggest source of traffic through “international mail”. and express delivery.”

Fentanyl seizures from China often weigh less than a kilogram, but test for a concentration greater than 90% for pure fentanyl.

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Chinese President Xi Jinping.
(Photo by Li Xueren/Xinhua via Getty Images)

According to a 2020 NPR report, Chinese drug cartels have exploited the internet to market fentanyl and the chemicals used to make fentanyl, often selling and shipping the drugs directly to US customers. Mexican drug cartels have also been big consumers of Chinese drug trafficking, absorbing shipments from China before smuggling the drugs across the US border.

After years of pressure, the Chinese government took action on the issue in 2019 by more heavily regulating fentanyl production in the country. As part of an agreement reached with the Trump administration, the Chinese government has pledged to investigate known fentanyl manufacturing areas, put in place strict controls on the marketing of the drug on the Internet and measures more stringent in enforcing drug shipment regulations.

“The Obama and Trump administrations have devoted significant diplomatic capital to persuading Beijing to clamp down on the supply of fentanyl from China to the United States. In April 2019, China finally announced that the production, sale and export of all fentanyl-class drugs would be banned except by licensed companies to which the Chinese government has granted special licenses,” Singleton said.

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56 pounds of fentanyl valued at $3.6 million.

56 pounds of fentanyl valued at $3.6 million.
(Nevada State Police)

The measures have led to a significant reduction in the illicit trade of fentanyl in China, with the DEA expressing hope that the country will soon lose its status as the main supplier of the drug to the United States.

But powerful Chinese drug rings have found creative ways to circumvent restrictions, camouflaging their efforts with complex networks from isolated inland cities and developing sophisticated new shipping methods designed to evade detection from law enforcement. .

Chinese drug rings have also circumvented restrictions by producing and selling chemicals used to make fentanyl, making enforcement more difficult.

US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping shake hands.

US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping shake hands.
(NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP/Getty Images)

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“Many Chinese networks involved in the production and advertising of fentanyl quickly adapted to increased legal constraints by modifying their techniques to exploit loopholes in chemical restrictions and disguise their activities,” said Michael Lohmuller, analyst at the Center for Advanced Defense. Studies, to NPR a year after the restrictions were put in place. implement.

The souring of relations between the United States and China now threatens to undo much of the progress made since 2019, especially after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan angered the Chinese government.

“This summer, following the trip of Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan, the Chinese government suspended its collaboration with Washington on issues of transnational crime and illegal drugs,” he said. said Singleton. “An expected deterioration in U.S.-China relations will likely further undermine Beijing’s willingness to enforce its own 2019 fentanyl regulations, which could lead to an escalation of the U.S. drug epidemic and associated trafficking activities. .”

Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu, left, speaks with U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as she prepares to depart in Taipei, Taiwan, Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2022.

Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu, left, speaks with U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as she prepares to depart in Taipei, Taiwan, Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2022.
((Taiwan Foreign Ministry via AP))

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Singleton argued that the Chinese government probably had little incentive to restart strict enforcement, noting that the United States was at the center of the opioid crisis and not China. This reality means that traffic from China can only increase in the near future.

“Going forward, it seems likely that we will see an increase in illicit drug and human trafficking flows from China to the United States, which will further strain customs and border patrol resources. “said Singleton.

Following China’s decision to stop working with the United States, Singleton stressed the need for an assessment of the ramifications of that decision.

“One thing we urgently need is an unclassified assessment, ideally produced by the Department of Homeland Security, regarding the potential ramifications arising from China’s decision to end joint collaboration on transnational crime and issues related to fentanyl,” Singleton said. “This is also an area where much stronger congressional oversight is needed, particularly by the relevant congressional committees responsible for homeland security matters.”




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