A report published by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission last February classified China as the primary source of fentanyl, a synthetic drug, in the United States. With President Trump’s recent declaration of the opioid epidemic as a national health crisis, the United States has turned its attention to China to establish a long-term solution. However, Chinese authorities deny responsibility for the rapid increase in overdose deaths.
Originally developed as a surgical anesthetic, fentanyl is a highly economic synthetic drug, being inexpensive yet potent. It is considered a highly lethal drug, especially due to tolerance that is developed by users. Furthermore, many of those that develop addiction go on to seek less costly drugs such as heroin.
Along with other illicit chemicals, large amounts of fentanyl have been exported from China. These chemicals are smuggled into Mexico, where they are processed and illicitly sent into the United States. Through this circumventing route, China has explicitly denied its role in the now national health crisis in the United States. Wei Xiaojun, deputy director-general of the Narcotics Control Bureau of the Ministry of Public Security, denied the accusations and claimed that there is insufficient evidence to pinpoint China as the leading source of fentanyl. Xiaojun, along with other Chinese authorities, has merely expressed his sympathies, but made no comment on China’s intention to cooperate to help mitigate the emergency.
However, China was recently pressured into banning the production of 23 variations of fentanyl by the United States. In addition, two Chinese drug traffickers were publicly indicted by the United States, which Chinese authorities claimed to be an aggressive and unnecessary move.
Recent statistics displays a rapidly escalating number in overdose deaths in the United States; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that 64,000 people died from drug overdoses in 2016, and in the span of less than 15 years, overdose deaths related just to heroin increased by an alarming 553%.