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China Demands US Lift Sanctions in Return for Cooperation On Fentanyl Crisis It Helped Create

Published: July 25, 2023
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (L) and China's Foreign Minister Qin Gang shake hands ahead of a meeting at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing on June 18, 2023. (Image: LEAH MILLIS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

China’s communist authorities are pressuring the U.S. to lift Trump-era sanctions on the Chinese Ministry of Public Security’s Institute of Forensic Science, in return for cooperation battling America’s fentanyl crisis, a crisis Chinese drug makers have played a large role in creating. 

“China is reportedly claiming that the sanctions must be lifted on the agency if the U.S. wants the country’s help battling fentanyl — because the institute has a narcotics lab that would be crucial in the war on the drug,” the NY Post reported. 

It’s a bold demand considering China has long supplied Mexican drug cartels with the precursor chemicals required for the manufacturing of deadly fentanyl. 

Chinese drug makers produce the precursors in China and ship them to Mexico where cartels manufacture the drug and then they smuggle it into the U.S. for distribution into American communities. 

In June this year, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, while visiting Beijing, raised the issue with the now ousted Foreign Minister Qin Gang, where Gang reportedly insisted on the quid pro quo, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported. 

According to the NY Post, sources familiar with the proposed deal say that Chinese officials “haven’t agreed to anything yet, and we are a little stalled on where to go.”

China’s Foreign Ministry told the WSJ, “If the U.S. genuinely wants to resolve its domestic drug problem, then it should respect the facts, withdraw the sanctions, and stop smearing and scapegoating.”


China flooded the US with lethal fentanyl 

It’s been known for years that China has played a key role in flooding the U.S. with the deadly drug.

An Issue Brief, published by the U.S.-China Economics and Security Review Commission in 2018, concluded that “China remains the largest source of illicit fentanyl and fentanyl-like substances in the United States,” and blamed CCP policies for contributing to the crisis.

“Beijing’s scheduling procedures remain slow and ineffective,” the brief says, adding that, “Because the Chinese government schedules chemicals one by one, illicit manufacturers create new substances faster than they can be controlled.” 

In 2020, investigative journalist Ben Westhoff, author of “Fentanyl Inc: How Rouge Chemists are Creating the Deadliest Wave of the Opioid Epidemic,” said that the more he dug into the matter, the more China’s role in the crisis became clear.

“I went really deep and tried to learn everything I could about this problem, and that brought me to China,” he told Yahoo Finance, adding that,”I actually went undercover into a pair of Chinese drug operations, including, I went into a fentanyl lab outside Shanghai. And I was pretending to be a drug dealer.” 

“What I learned was that these companies making fentanyl and other dangerous drugs are subsidized by the [Chinese] government. And so when they work in these suburban office parks, for example, the building, the costs for research and development, they have these development zones, they get export tax breaks,” he said.


Empty promises

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has offered only empty promises to the U.S. in regards to the crisis, pledging years ago that it would crack down on the manufacturing and distribution of precursor chemicals.

In 2019, Beijing said it would regulate all fentanyl-related drugs as a class of controlled substances as a way to stem the flow of lethal opioids from China.

According to CBS News, at the time, Liu Yuejin, vice-commissioner of China’s National Narcotics Control Commission said, “We firmly believe that listing the entire class of fentanyl substances will completely block the loopholes that enable lawbreakers to evade punishment by simply modifying  one or several atoms, functional groups or other groups,” adding that, “It will effectively prevent the massive abuse of fentanyl substances and illegal drug trafficking and smuggling activities, and contribute to global drug control with China’s wisdom and power.”

However, years following this announcement Chinese precursors continue to flow into Mexico, and U.S. authorities are now faced with the dilemma over whether or not to cooperate with the very government responsible for the crisis.

Recently, a U.S. State Department representative said that China is refusing to resume “bilateral cooperation on counternarcotics issues,” the NY Post reported. 

“During the Secretary’s visit to Beijing, he underscored the importance of greater cooperation to disrupt the global flow of synthetic drugs and their precursor chemicals into the United States, which fuels the fentanyl crisis,” the representative said, adding that,  “We’ve made very clear to the PRC that we are open to resuming cooperation on dealing with synthetic opioids and fentanyl. We will continue to use all tools available to the United States to disrupt the global fentanyl supply chain.”

The PRC suspended all counternarcotics efforts in protest of former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan in the summer of 2022.