Blaming China won’t end fentanyl crisis in US

If there is a problem in the United States, you can bet your bottom dollar that rather than getting to grips with it, the default action will be to blame China. It doesn't matter what stripe the administration is. Such is the case with the deadly synthetic opioid, fentanyl, that kills tens of thousands of Americans each year.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 107,735 Americans died from a drug overdose between August 2021 and August 2022, two-thirds of them due to an overdose of a synthetic opioid, mainly fentanyl.

Yet despite it claiming to favor cooperation with China to crack down on narcotics and the fact that China takes a very tough line against illicit drugs, the US pointed a finger at China being the source of the problem, indicting and sanctioning Chinese individuals and entities on April 14 for their claimed "involvement" in fentanyl precursor chemicals.

China has done all that can be done to curb the illicit trade in fentanyl. It officially added fentanyl to the Supplementary List of Controlled Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances with Non-medical Use in May 2019, a key move in preventing the illicit manufacturing, trafficking and abuse of the substance. That the US' move is a political one rather than a practical one is evidenced by the fact that the US is blaming China for exporting "fentanyl precursors", which are in fact only ordinary chemicals sold through normal trade. It is the importer's duty to prevent such chemicals from falling into the hands of illicit drugmakers. By designating and sanctioning two Chinese entities and four individuals, the US Treasury Department is only trying to cover the failure of the US government to combat the illicit trade in the US.

As Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said at a regular news briefing, "instead of reducing domestic drug demand, strengthening prescription drug control, and enhancing education, the US tries to confuse the public, mislead the public, and shift responsibility for its own ineffective governance". Contrary to its claims, "China, in the spirit of humanitarianism, has been trying to help the US as best it can".

Indeed, according to the US Customs and Border Protection, the United States has seized no fentanyl-related substances from China since their scheduling. The latest accusations by the US have shifted to link China with Mexico, claiming that China is shipping precursor chemicals to the country, where drug cartels produce the lethal drug and smuggle it overland into the US. Yet China has not received any report or data from Mexico on the use of Chinese precursor chemicals for drug production there, nor has the US provided any evidence about the flow of Chinese chemicals into Mexico for fentanyl production.

May 9 marks the second National Fentanyl Awareness Day in the US. If US politicians mean to save US lives, it is time for them to do something that really helps tackle the problem rather than just making China the scapegoat.