US opioid crisis must be tackled, says Beijing as it cracks down on deadly Chinese fentanyl labs

China’s drug agency promises joint effort after Donald Trump’s claim that cheap Chinese-made fentanyl was partly to blame for its use in the US

PUBLISHED : Monday, 25 June, 2018, 5:24pm
UPDATED : Monday, 25 June, 2018, 11:01pm

China’s drug control agency has said the United States should do more to cut its demand for opioids to tackle the use of synthetic drug fentanyl, but it vowed to step up cooperation after Chinese production of the substance was blamed for helping to fuel the US opioid crisis.

US President Donald Trump said in November on a state visit to Beijing that China and the US would do more to stem what he called a “flood of cheap and deadly” fentanyl “manufactured in China” from entering the US.

A year-long congressional probe into the use of fentanyl in the US found that the substance could easily be bought online from Chinese “laboratories” and posted to the United States because of gaps in oversight by the US Postal Service.

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“China’s drug control agencies, now and in the years to come, will place greater emphasis on drug control cooperation between China and the United States,” Liu Yuejin, deputy head of China’s National Narcotics Commission, told a news conference on Monday.

“But I believe that to resolve this, the more important issue is for the United States to strive to reduce and compress the great demand and drug consumption markets of opioids.”

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Although China accepts that some new psychoactive substances, including fentanyl, that are manufactured in China are sold in the US, the substances are not yet readily abused and trafficked in China itself, he said.

Asked whether joint efforts between China and the US would be impacted by current tensions in the bilateral relationship, Liu said political factors would not affect China’s resolve to combat drug manufacture and trafficking.

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According to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, opioids were responsible for more than 33,000 American deaths in 2015. Fentanyl is 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine.

Beijing has taken steps to crack down on the production and export of synthetic drugs, and has placed fentanyl and 22 other related compounds on its list of controlled substances.