China Bans Fentanyl, Bowing to U.S. Pressure

Jack Crowe

Chinese officials on Monday announced an immediate ban on the production and distribution of all “fentanyl-related substances,” fulfilling a promise that President Xi Jingping made to President Trump last year following a years-long Department of Justice pressure campaign.

Speaking at a press conference in Beijing, officials representing three government agencies announced that they would expand the existing ban on some 25 fentanyl variants to all forms of the drug.

Following the Group of 20 summit in Buenos Aires in December, Trump drew attention to China’s role in profiting from the sale of fentanyl, which claims tens of thousands of American lives every year. U.S. officials announced after the summit that Xi had promised Trump China would crack down on fentanyl production as part of negotiations that led to a halt in the escalating trade war between the two countries.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, who leads the ongoing trade negotiations with Beijing, told the Senate last month that he would like China’s commitment to curtailing opioid production codified in any final agreement.

“It may very well be something that we end up writing into this agreement,” Lighthizer told lawmakers in February. “But it clearly is something the president views himself as having a commitment on. And that we are monitoring to see in fact if there are changes.”

While Chinese officials on Monday acknowledged the importance of curtailing fentanyl production, they maintained that China should not be blamed for the devastation wrought by the opioid crisis in the U.S.

“We believe that the United States is the main cause of the problem of the abuse of fentanyl in the United States,” Liu Yuejin, vice commissioner of China’s National Narcotics Control Commission, said at the press conference.

While the ban officially went into effect Monday, it remains unclear whether the government will prioritize its enforcement across the thousands of far-flung Chinese chemical factories capable of producing the valuable narcotic.

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