Members of Congress have called on Secretary of State Anthony Brinken to pressure China to curb the flow of fentanyl and synthetic opioids into the United States during the Secretary of State’s upcoming visit to the United States in the coming days. .
On Wednesday, a group of 14 Republican senators led by Marco Rubio of Florida wrote a letter to Blinken ahead of his visit, highlighting China’s role in the “fentanyl crisis” and wanting him to deal with it. highlighted as one of many problems.
According to the CDC, more than 100,000 Americans will die from drug overdoses between July 2021 and July 2022, two-thirds of which were due to synthetic opioids, primarily fentanyl.
Fentanyl, a highly potent synthetic drug, is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine and 30 to 50 times more potent than heroin.
The Chinese government cracked down on the manufacture and distribution of fentanyl in 2019. This is a move hailed by the Trump administration. As a result, China is no longer a major source of fentanyl entering the United States. However, it is still often shipped to Mexico and is an important source of the precursor chemical used by cartels to produce fentanyl, which is brought across borders.
“China is a major producer of these precursor chemicals, shipping and selling to two major Mexican cartels that produce fentanyl (Sinaloa and New Generation),” said Rand Corporation’s senior international and defense researcher David Lackey explained.
“A substantial 98 percent of the precursor chemicals used to make fentanyl come from China,” Democratic Rep. David Trone of Maryland told CNN. Getting China involved in this crisis “should be Chief Brinken’s first mission when he gets there”.
Experts and lawmakers say the production of precursor chemicals in China is a major factor fueling the ongoing opioid crisis.
“Synthetic opioid trafficking is an area where even some meaningful measures from the PRC (People’s Republic of China) can play a vital role in combating this worsening epidemic and saving American lives. He urged Blinken not to negotiate with Chinese officials on other topics until it has secured a commitment from Beijing to do more to stem the fentanyl crisis.
Trone, who lost his nephew to a fentanyl overdose, said China has promised to adopt rules requiring pharmaceutical companies to know who their customers are, and introduced and enforced export controls for the chemical sector. , believes it is necessary to work with US agencies such as the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Drug Enforcement Administration. National Drug Control Policy Office to crack down on the fentanyl trade.
Blinken asked his team at the State Department, working with multiple agency partners, to do “as much as possible” to address this deadly crisis, the leading killer of Americans ages 18 to 49. State Department spokesperson Ned Price said earlier this year.
However, it is unclear what direct questions he will ask the Chinese government during his visit.
“While China’s past actions have helped combat illicit synthetic drugs, China’s efforts to curb the diversion of precursor chemicals and equipment used by criminals to manufacture fentanyl and other synthetic drugs are now being pursued. In addition, we will continue to urge China to take additional meaningful and concrete actions,” Price said.
Some lawmakers think Blinken should offer trade talks with China if it engages in efforts related to stemming the fentanyl crisis. Yet another congressional aide said China would only respond to pressure and said the administration should consider measures including additional sanctions related to hazardous substances.
Todd Robinson, the head of the State Department for international drug and law enforcement affairs, said an effective way to tackle the challenge was through “collaboration and collaboration.”
“China has its own problem with drugs. Mexico has a problem with drugs. Colombia has a problem. It’s not a problem. Everyone has problems.”
But it is clear that China’s involvement is necessary. Reducing the supply of precursor chemicals from China would have a “massive” impact on the crisis and would mean a “dramatic reduction” in the number of drug overdose deaths in the United States, Robinson said. increase.
China is the largest producer of chemicals found in everyday items such as cleaning products. Many Chinese companies have started producing and selling precursor chemicals in addition to the chemicals they already produce.
The challenge of getting to the root of the problem persists when China and other countries often turn their backs on the United States and blame the United States for the addiction problem that is driving demand.
“It’s not as simple as saying ‘China, stop producing and exporting these chemicals.’ There are several sides to this issue. and stop using it,'” Lucky said.
Many Americans directly involved in the crisis are watching Blinken’s travels closely.
With more than 1,300 deaths from synthetic opioids between March 2021 and March 2022, according to the CDC, West Virginia is the epicenter of the national crisis.
Jordan Dennison lived in the states, grew up with drug addict parents, and developed an opioid addiction as a teenager. After overdosing more than ten times a few years ago, he finally cleared up.The 30-year-old now works in an outreach program to get addicts to treatment.
“Drugs have led me to lose everything. Every relationship I’ve ever had. I found out it was fentanyl that I was using, not the heroine. Got it on the street.” “I had no idea where it came from, but I always assumed it was from China.”