Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan puts a heavy strain on US-China relations. And it could have untold consequences for Washington’s fight against drugs.
- After Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, China has terminated its cooperation with the US in the field of counter-narcotics.
- The phase-out could add to the already soaring number of fentanyl victims in the US.
- This article is available to IPPEN.MEDIA as part of a cooperation with the China.Table Professional Briefing – China.Table first published it on September 2, 2022.
BEIJING – The Chinese government has shown its opposition to the US in various ways following Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan. In addition to the military operations, for example, cooperation in the fight against drug trafficking was terminated. The drug fentanyl in particular is a big problem in the USA. The end of the cooperation could lead to even more drug deaths in the USA.
The Chinese government is aware of this danger, as Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said in his statement on the exit: “The consequences for undermining bilateral relations and damaging China-US anti-narcotics cooperation should be taken into account.” be fully borne by the US side.”
China’s largest supplier of illegal fentanyl
According to a study by the US drug agency DEA, China is the largest supplier of illegally manufactured fentanyl or related substances. The accusation is that China is flooding the US market with the drug, and Beijing is looking the other way. The synthetic opioid, which was originally developed to combat pain specifically for cancer patients, found its way onto the black market in the 2000s – and has been driving up the number of victims ever since. Fentanyl overdose is a common cause of death in the United States.
Fentanyl is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. The substance is therefore popular with drug cartels. They mix it with other substances like heroin or cocaine to increase their effects. Since consumers often do not know anything about the admixture, unintentional overdoses are becoming more common. More consumers are dying from counterfeit fentanyl-laced drugs being sold to unsuspecting customers.
China sees the heart of the problem in the US
In the last year alone, fentanyl has led to more than 100,000 drug-related deaths, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Rahul Gupta, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, said in response to China’s termination of cooperation that China must play a key role in the fight: “At a time when an epidemic of overdoses is claiming a life every five minutes, it is unacceptable that the People’s Republic of China is withdrawing its cooperation – which would help bring accountability to those individuals who are distributing these illegal drugs.”
But the cooperation was already marked by conflicts and finger pointing. There was a supposed breakthrough in the cooperation in 2019. After promises made by President Xi Jinping at the G-20 summit, China had tightened control over fentanyl. Websites openly selling fentanyl have been shut down, mail tightened, and some Chinese nationals have been severely fined. But the number of drug-related deaths in the United States continued to rise.
Cooperation between China and the USA has been problematic for a long time
The Chinese side interprets this as a clear sign that they have nothing to do with the problem. According to the Chinese ambassador to the United States, the fact that there was still an increase in drug-related deaths shows that the United States “did not address the crux of the problem.”
The spokesman for the State Department reiterated this in his statement on the exit: “Regarding fentanyl abuse in the United States, I would like to emphasize that the root of this crisis lies in the United States,” said Wang. Drug control in the US is simply less effective than in China.
This statement seems almost cynical against the background of the narrative propagated by the state in China that the mass import of opium by the western colonial powers in the 19th century was the main reason for China’s opium crisis.
The United States considers China’s drug fight to be inefficient
US sources also paint a different picture of the effectiveness of the Chinese crackdown in 2019. The international cartels have simply switched to simply purchasing the raw materials from China instead of fentanyl as a finished active ingredient. The final product would then be manufactured in the United States or in neighboring states such as Mexico. The Chinese crackdown has resulted in shipments from China to the US falling to near zero. But since the measures went into effect, the US has been deluged with commodities from China, stifling international efforts,” Gupta said in a Wall Street Journal op-ed .
Gupta also accuses the Chinese of only using Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan as an excuse to withdraw from the cooperation. He predicted a further increase in fentanyl victims worldwide. In the medium and long term, China’s exit will thus increase the escalation between the two countries. Because the fatalities can also be used as a pretext for political measures on the part of the USA in the future.
By Gregor Koppenburg and Jörn Petring
Jörn Petring and Gregor Koppenburg have been living as freelance authors in Beijing for several years. They have also been reporting from there for China.Table since the beginning of 2021.
This article appeared on September 2, 2022 in the China.Table Professional Briefing newsletter – as part of a cooperation, it is now also available to the readers of the IPPEN.MEDIA portals.