China has pledged to stem the supply of the opioid fentanyl flowing into the United States, according to a statement from Washington on the results of the meeting between US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping at the G20 summit in Buenos Aires last week.
Fentanyl is one of the top drugs being abused in the US, and China is believed to be the main source.
Fentanyl is used as a pain medication and together with other medications for anesthesia. It is also widely used as a recreational drug due to its rapid onset and powerful effects.
As a result, fentanyl abuse has spread rapidly across the world.
In the US alone, around 20,000 people were killed by the drug in 2016, exceeding the 15,000 deaths caused by heroin, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Music legend Prince died that year after taking what he thought was Paracetamol, a widely used painkiller, which turned out to have been laced with Fentanyl.
Many western countries are struggling with fentanyl abuse since fentanyl substances can be easily laced into other drugs to bypass regulation.
Many have blamed China for not imposing sufficient controls on the trafficking of the drug, thereby allowing criminals to easily lace fentanyl substances into other drugs and ship them to overseas users by post.
In August, Trump tweeted: “It is outrageous that Poisonous Synthetic Heroin Fentanyl comes pouring into the US Postal System from China. We can, and must, END THIS NOW!”
Following Trump’s meeting with Xi in Argentina, Washington praised Xi for his pledge to designate fentanyl as a controlled substance, calling it “a wonderful humanitarian gesture”.
Those selling the drug would be subject to China’s maximum penalty under the law, the US statement said.
China has been spending a lot of resources to crack down on drug trafficking, knowing that it could become a serious problem.
However, fentanyl has escaped the crackdown because abuse of the drug is not yet a big problem in China.
Taking tough action on fentanyl will not only be welcomed by the US, but is also something China should do for its own good.
It shouldn’t be too difficult to fight fentanyl vendors. Chinese authorities can start by monitoring online ads and tracking down the sellers through the postal system.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Dec 5
Translation by Julie Zhu
[Chinese version 中文版]
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