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U.S.-China Collaboration Signals New Phase in Global Fentanyl Control

Last Updated on 2024/01/31

  • US officials describe discussions with China on fentanyl as significant, yet stress the need for further action

In recent developments, the United States and China have initiated a collaborative counter-narcotics effort, marking a significant stride in bilateral cooperation against the trafficking and production of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid substantially more potent than heroin. This joint initiative comes as a first since 2019 when relations between the two nations began to deteriorate.

The establishment of the U.S.-China Counternarcotics Working Group was announced in Beijing following a U.S. delegation visit led by Deputy Homeland Security Adviser Jen Daskal. This action aligns with the agreements reached at a summit in San Francisco in November, where U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping committed to intensifying efforts against the manufacturing and financing of fentanyl.

China’s Minister of Public Security, Wang Xiaohong, expressed optimism about the working group, emphasizing the potential for enhanced cooperation and its positive impact on Sino-U.S. relations. He articulated the mutual understanding achieved on the working group’s agenda and highlighted the benefits of collaboration over confrontation in the China-U.S. relationship.

On the American side, White House national security spokesman John Kirby acknowledged the commitment from both nations to enhance law enforcement coordination. This cooperation aims at disrupting the distribution and export of precursor chemicals used in opioid production, confronting illegal financial activities, and fostering greater information sharing. Kirby recognized these developments as a promising beginning, yet he was quick to point out that they represent just the initial steps in a much longer journey. He underlined the need for continued work and mentioned forthcoming meetings as an opportunity to build on the progress made.

This move is seen as an important development amidst ongoing tensions between the two countries on various issues, including human rights, trade tariffs, the COVID-19 pandemic, and Taiwan. Notably, the U.S. has consistently pointed to China as the primary source of precursor chemicals used by Mexican cartels to synthesize fentanyl, a claim that China has denied. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) previously described China as the main source of all fentanyl-related substances trafficked into the United States. In response to these allegations, Washington imposed sanctions and launched indictments against several Chinese companies and individuals in October, accused of being involved in the illegal fentanyl trade.

Meanwhile, Beijing has refuted involvement in the trade, underscoring its zero-tolerance drug policies and insisting that the roots of the addiction crisis are internal to the U.S. Despite these challenges, the recent developments suggest a renewed focus on cooperation in this critical area of public health and law enforcement.

The initiation of this working group is a notable step in addressing the fentanyl crisis, which has been a significant contributor to drug overdose deaths in the U.S. In 2022, over 100,000 people died from drug overdose deaths in the country, with a substantial number involving opioids like fentanyl.

Sources: Reuters, Aljazeera
Topics: Impacts of U.S.-China cooperation on global opioid crisis, strategies to curb fentanyl production and trade, role of diplomacy in international drug control

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