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Sunday, December 3rd, 2023

China’s role in opioid trafficking under scrutiny in Congressional letter to State Department

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In a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, U.S. Sens. Mike Rounds (R-SD) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) urged the Department of State to take steps to hold China accountable for the precursor chemicals used by Mexican drug cartels in the manufacture of synthetic opioids.

The pair proposed strengthening partnerships with allies in Southeast Asia and the Pacific to crackdown on illicit trafficking of methamphetamine production and trafficking of meth precursors from China. They wanted the financial flow linked to the People’s Republic of China and fentanyl-related shipments to be broken, and for Chinese pharmaceutical and chemical companies shipping precursors for opioid production to be penalized.

“As the PRC continues to assert its role in global governance, often signaling its potential to lead and challenge existing institutions and norms, we urge the Department of State to hold the PRC accountable for its role in the illegal trafficking of synthetic opioid drugs,” the senators wrote. “Insisting to be recognized as a great power on the world stage also means accepting the responsibility that comes with such a title. Thus, we must do more to demand that the PRC assume greater responsibility in the global counternarcotic campaign.”

Since 2019, drug overdoses – a significant part of which can be attributed to fentanyl – have been the leading cause of death for Americans between the ages of 18 and 45. Since 2021, an estimated 33,375 pounds of fentanyl have been seized or smuggled through the U.S.-Mexico border. While much of this can be attributed to drug cartels, which process and manufacture opioids for sale and distribution, China has been under increased scrutiny for its outsized role in producing the precursor chemicals that make these drugs possible.

Exacerbating the issue, according to Rounds and Manchin, is China’s refusal to regulate its pharmaceutical and chemical sectors, despite making biopharmaceuticals a key sector of its economy.

“In order to be recognized for its purported contributions to the global counternarcotic campaign, the PRC must commit to dedicating the necessary resources and personnel to conduct serious oversight of industries that are contributing to this global crisis,” the senators wrote. Failure to engage with the problem, they continued, should be met with sanctions.