China not to blame for US fen­tanyl-abuse epi­demic

Global Times - - BIZCOMMENT - By Li Haidong

In re­cent years, drug ad­dic­tion in­volv­ing a syn­thetic opi­oid known as fen­tanyl has led to a rapid rise in the num­ber of over­dose deaths in the US. It has be­come so se­ri­ous that in Oc­to­ber 2017, US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump de­clared opi­oid abuse a na­tion­wide Pub­lic Health Emer­gency. At the G20 sum­mit in Buenos Aires, top lead­ers from China and the US reached an agree­ment that in­cluded clas­si­fy­ing fen­tanyl as a con­trolled sub­stance, which was warmly re­ceived by the US side. How­ever, it is worth not­ing that there is an in­cor­rect view that the US fen­tanyl epi­demic is a re­sult of Chi­nese com­pa­nies sell­ing the drug, and this needs to be clar­i­fied and cor­rected. First of all, fen­tanyl abuse is not so much a diplo­matic is­sue be­tween China and the US as

a so­cial prob­lem in the US it­self. While the US econ­omy has grad­u­ally re­cov­ered in re­cent years, the coun­try’s wealth gap has grown even wider. Many un­em­ployed and low-in­come Amer­i­cans have sunk into drug abuse to es­cape from their mis­er­able re­al­ity, mak­ing the drug epi­demic a dark side of US society. More­over, as with the il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion prob­lem that the coun­try has been grap­pling with for decades, cer­tain in­ad­e­qua­cies in US law and le­gal en­force­ment have also cre­ated the con­di­tions for fen­tanyl abuse.

Sec­ond, the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment has al­ways strictly reg­u­lated the pro­duc­tion of fen­tanyl, which is sub­ject to strict use and man­age­ment pro­ce­dures at le­git­i­mate com­pa­nies and does not eas­ily flow to the US. Fen­tanyl is cur­rently clas­si­fied as an il­le­gal drug in the US, but its pro­duc­tion and sales have been con­ducted through smug­gling, which is cross-bor­der and hard to de­tect. Il­le­gal com­pa­nies both in­side and out­side the US have ex­ploited the le­gal and ad­min­is­tra­tive loop­holes of other coun­tries to il­le­gally pro­duce and sell fen­tanyl, which ended up be­com­ing a diplo­matic is­sue be­tween the US and some other coun­tries. But the se­vere fen­tanyl de­pen­dence of some Amer­i­cans is the most im­por­tant cause be­hind its abuse in the coun­try.

Third, the fen­tanyl abuse in the US is partly due to the over-hyped pro­mo­tion of its med­i­cal use by some com­pa­nies and doc­tors. In pre­vi­ous years, some phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­nies and in­di­vid­u­als sought to make a profit by ac­tively en­cour­ag­ing peo­ple to use pre­scribed fen­tanyl. As a re­sult, fen­tanyl is used in large quan­ti­ties in the US, and many peo­ple have be­come ad­dicted to it. Some Amer­i­can phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­nies and in­di­vid­u­als put their own eco­nomic in­ter­ests above the pub­lic’s health. US society has come to rec­og­nize the dan­ger of the drug as the num­ber of fen­tanyl-re­lated over­dose deaths has reached an ap­palling level.

Last but not the least, the crack­down against smug­gling and drug use is a long-term global chal­lenge, and there needs to be strength­ened co­or­di­na­tion and joint re­sponses from var­i­ous coun­tries,

rather than onesided

The Chi­nese gov­ern­ment has al­ways strictly reg­u­lated the pro­duc­tion of fen­tanyl, which is sub­ject to strict use and man­age­ment pro­ce­dures at le­git­i­mate com­pa­nies and does not eas­ily flow to the US.

ac­cu­sa­tions. China and the US have al­ready had a lot of fruit­ful co­op­er­a­tion in the fight against drugs. In or­der to main­tain this mo­men­tum, the two sides should avoid blam­ing each other in the process of deal­ing with fen­tanyl abuse. It is an ex­ag­ger­a­tion for the US to claim that the fen­tanyl in the US mainly comes from China. More­over, such claims will only have a neg­a­tive im­pact on the ac­tive co­op­er­a­tion be­tween the two coun­tries.

The prob­lem of fen­tanyl abuse can­not be solved by just one coun­try. Co­op­er­a­tion among var­i­ous coun­tries is the only long-term so­lu­tion to this prob­lem. Var­i­ous so­cial prob­lems in China and the US can be solved through co­op­er­a­tion, and joint ef­forts in fight­ing fen­tanyl abuse should be a pos­i­tive fac­tor in the con­struc­tion of a mu­tu­ally ben­e­fi­cial and win-win re­la­tion­ship be­tween the two coun­tries.

The au­thor is a pro­fes­sor with the In­sti­tute of In­ter­na­tional Re­la­tions at China For­eign Af­fairs Univer­sity. bi­zopin­[email protected] glob­al­times.com.cn

Il­lus­tra­tion: Luo Xuan/GT

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