China not to blame for US fentanyl-abuse epidemic

By Li Haidong Source:Global Times Published: 2018/12/6 23:03:43

Illustration: Luo Xuan/GT

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 one-sided 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.

Posted in: INSIDER'S EYE

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