China ends discussions with the US on countering drugs

New worries about a dramatic rise in overdose deaths from Chinese-supplied fentanyl stockpiles are being stoked by China’s decision to cease counter-narcotics cooperation with the United States in protest of a high-profile congressional visit to Taiwan.

Current and former American officials are now warning of the consequences of increased drug trafficking into the United States by the Mexican drug cartels that are collaborating with Chinese criminal gangs to move fentanyl, the chemicals used to make it, and other illicit drugs into the country after the Chinese suspension of the bilateral talks was announced on August 5.

Statistics from the Customs and Border Protection Agency showed that fentanyl seizures were already soaring before the talks ended. 2,130 pounds of fentanyl were taken in total in July, which is almost the same amount that was taken in the entire year of 2019.

Rahul Gupta, the drug czar for the White House, urged China last week to re-join the anti-drug negotiations and threatened more drug shipments if they didn’t. Dr. Gupta warned the Wall Street Journal that until Beijing takes additional action, “fentanyl and methamphetamine produced with precursors made in China will continue to flood the world.”

Dr. Gupta referred to China’s decision to halt the negotiations as “unfortunate” and pointed out that in May 2019, the Chinese government stepped up its enforcement of export laws linked to fentanyl, leading to a substantial drop in the amount of the drug making its way to American soil.

However, he added, “Since those steps, China has flooded North America with precursor chemicals, impeding international efforts.”

Dr. Gupta omitted any mention of whether the overflow of narcotics was in part caused by lax border restrictions and a massive number of unauthorized immigrants.

As a result of Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan, which Beijing deemed to be a violation of the long-standing “one China” policy regarding the island’s status, China canceled or halted eight bilateral exchanges with the United States.

Earlier today, Dr. Gupta posted on Twitter, “At a time when the overdose epidemic continues to claim a life every five minutes, it’s unacceptable that the PRC is withholding its cooperation that would help to bring to justice individuals who traffic these illicit drugs and who engage in this global criminal enterprise.”

Former State Department employee David L. Asher predicted that the Chinese move will result in increased shipments of fentanyl precursor to the Sinaloa and Jalisco cartels in Mexico, criminal organizations that collaborate with Chinese chemical producers to produce fentanyl.

According to their behavior, communist China and the U.S. are engaged in a covert opioid war, and PRC operatives are now in charge of money laundering in both the U.S. and Canada, according to Mr. Asher, who is currently at the China Center of the Hudson Institute.

The Justice Department and Office of National Drug Control Policy are counting on China’s cooperation, which he called a “totally dead letter item,” despite the fact that it alone should be the foundation for a [racketeering] case, he claimed.

China’s government tightened down in 2018 on direct fentanyl shipments into the United States via the mail and concealed in the bags of so-called drug mules. Following a meeting between then-President Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping, China agreed to limit the export of fentanyl and its associated substances.

According to former U.S. counter drug authorities, direct Chinese fentanyl shipments to the United States almost ceased within 90 days after the December 2018 deal signed during the G-20 conference in Argentina.

Border troubles

However, the supply of the lethal synthetic opioid fentanyl, which is manufactured in China and is suspected of being the cause of 100,000 overdose deaths the previous year, has been diverted to Mexico.

According to former officials, the Biden administration’s struggles to secure the southern border have given Mexican drug traffickers more room to increase the amount of fentanyl they import into the United States.

James Carroll, a former drug czar for the Trump administration, claimed that after reaching a deal with Mr. Xi, direct fentanyl shipments sharply decreased, only to see the supply routes diverted to Mexico.

According to Mr. Carroll, the decreased fentanyl imports from China demonstrate Beijing’s ability to halt the black market if it so chooses. In an interview, he claimed, “[The Chinese] denied they were bringing it to Mexico.”

The rising fentanyl shipments are mostly the result of the ongoing inability to secure the border with Mexico.  According to Mr. Carroll, “almost all of the fentanyl that is in the United States has crossed the Southwest border.”

The suspension of the anti-drug discussions, according to Uttam Dhillon, acting administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) during the Trump administration, will result in a surge in fentanyl shipments and an increase in overdose deaths among Americans.

Any lack of cooperation with any nation, but particularly with one like China that already supplies the Mexican drug cartels with massive quantities of fentanyl, fentanyl precursors, and methamphetamine precursors, will almost certainly increase their capacity to produce and distribute those drugs in the United States, according to Mr. Dhillon.

According to him, recent huge fentanyl seizures are a sign that drug traffickers are bringing more of the substance into the country than in prior years.

The former acting DEA director claims that under President Biden and the left-leaning Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, there has been a marked decline in the amount of U.S.-Mexican law enforcement collaboration in Mexico, which has made the problem of Chinese drug trafficking worse.

The Mexican government passed legislation that limits the activities of DEA agents there and now mandates that the American drug agency inform Mexican authorities of every detail of its anti-drug operations.

According to Mr. Dhillon, the new law has made it extremely challenging for the DEA to operate in the nation due to corruption and connections between Mexican law enforcement and drug gangs.

DEA aircraft activities in Mexico were stopped by Mexico City, and extraditions from Mexico for drug-related cases have also drastically decreased.

The ability of Mexican drug traffickers to operate undeterred in Mexico without worrying about U.S. law enforcement, combined with China essentially telling the U.S. they are no longer going to cooperate on drug trafficking issues, Mr. Dhillon said, “is creating a perfect storm for far more drugs entering this country.”

He said that Mexican drug cartels have control of all major highways and borders with the United States.

Fentanyl is not the only illegal narcotic being trafficked more frequently. Methamphetamine, cocaine, and heroin shipments are all rising thanks to the cartels.

Mr. Dhillon predicted that drug overdose deaths would increase in all of those categories.

Before the negotiations were terminated, Mr. Carroll, the former drug czar, stated that it didn’t seem like the Biden administration was pressuring China to stop fentanyl supplies to Mexico.

Bilateral involvement and multilateral cooperation were underlined as being essential to addressing the drug crisis in the White House national drug control policy, which was released in April.

According to a Congressional Research Service assessment published last month, the Biden administration’s drug policy toward China intends to deepen cooperation and maintain engagement in order to cut down on shipments of fentanyl precursors.

After initially being cooperative, China’s leadership expressed disappointment that its efforts had not resulted in advancements in other aspects of U.S.-China relations, such as the removal of Mr. Trump’s trade tariffs.

The Treasury Department’s sanctions against 20 Chinese and Hong Kong firms involved in fentanyl trafficking have also angered China.

Beijing has threatened to stop cooperating when the Institute of Forensic Science, a division of the Ministry of Public Security (MPS), the nation’s police and intelligence agency, was listed on the commercial sanctions list maintained by the US Commerce Department in May 2020. The institute was placed on a blacklist as a result of its alleged involvement in the persecution of Uyghurs in the Chinese province of Xinjiang.

Even before the Pelosi group visited Taiwan on August 2, it appeared that Chinese-Chinese collaboration in the fight against drugs was in peril.

The U.S. decision to blacklist the MPS institution, according to the Chinese government, “significantly damaged China’s examination and identification of fentanyl chemicals and hampered the operation of its fentanyl monitoring system.” The administration added that the measure “greatly damaged” China’s willingness to assist in the fight against drugs.

Some American objectives for working with China to reduce fentanyl “remain unrealized,” according to the CRS study.

China made efforts to restrict some fentanyl precursors, but did not do the same for norfentanyl, 4-AP, and boc-4-AP, which are all chemical precursors.

The Bilateral Drug Intelligence Working Group and the Counter Narcotics Working Group, the two U.S.-China forums that serve as the primary conduits for the now-suspended negotiations, were also unable to convene in person because of pandemic limitations.

A need for action

According to a former State Department official, recent Chinese collaboration on drug policy has been restricted to talking without any concrete action from Beijing.

The former official claimed that China sought to accomplish something abstract without taking concrete steps.  The cooperative negotiations sought to weaken political elites while allowing fentanyl to affect the United States since Beijing is opposed to the United States.

Official American worries about the absence of anti-drug cooperation have been ignored by China. Last month, Wang Wenbin, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said that the United States was to blame for the collapse in anti-drug cooperation.

“The U.S. side bears sole responsibility for damaging China-U.S. counternarcotics cooperation,” Mr. Wang told reporters on August 12.

Because the MPS Institute of Forensic Science is responsible for identifying and regulating compounds that resemble fentanyl, Mr. Wang said that the institute’s sanctions hampered cooperation.

The Chinese government declared eight retaliatory measures in response to Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan, with the termination of counternarcotics negotiations being one of them. Soon after the visit, Beijing began staging massive war games, which according to American officials appeared to be drills for an invasion of the independent island state.

The Chinese not only stopped the counter-drug negotiations but also three different platforms for military discussions between the United States and China.

Talks on climate change and Chinese cooperation on deporting unauthorized immigrants were also put on hold.

The former drug czar, Mr. Carroll, stated that more has to be done by the American government to track down and disrupt fentanyl shipments, which he referred to as a “weapon of mass destruction.”

According to his prediction, the number of fatal overdoses would soon surpass all previous records in the nation. Because of the progress we are making in the United States on the demand side, we must address the supply issue.

Addiction treatment is improving, but a counterdrug policy must also focus on preventing drug importation. He stated, “We need to hold China and Mexico responsible.”

The former acting DEA administrator, Mr. Dhillon, stated: “We need a secure Southwest border and Mexico must be pushed to re-engage and allow U.S. law enforcement to operate in Mexico in order to properly fight America’s drug overdose problem.”