US Seeks Reengagement with China to Stop Illicit Fentanyl as Blinken Heads to Beijing

The United States is “actively seeking to re-engage” China in the fight against drugs, including stemming the flow of illegal synthetic drugs like fentanyl into the US, the State Department said ahead of Secretary of State Anthony Blinken’s visit to Beijing in early February.

US officials acknowledged that engagement between the two countries on these issues “has been limited in recent months.”

“We don’t have any recent reading or pre-screening meetings,” a State Department spokesman told VOA on Tuesday when asked if anti-fentanyl talks had resumed after Beijing suspended cooperation with Washington on the issue in protest at the then-Visit of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in Taiwan last August.

“While its past actions have helped counter flows of illicit synthetic drugs, we hope to see further action by the PRC (People’s Republic of China) — meaningful, concrete action — to curb the diversion of precursor chemicals and equipment used by criminals to manufacture fentanyl and other synthetic drugs,” State Department spokesman Ned Price told VOA this week.

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In 2019, China added substances related to fentanyl to the list of controlled narcotics.

While Beijing is no longer a major source of synthetic opioids flowing to the United States, U.S. officials said Washington continues to see precursor chemicals of Chinese origin used in the illicit production of fentanyl and other illicit synthetic drugs.

Bipartisan majorities in Congress have approved legislation to prioritize U.S. efforts to combat the international trafficking of covered synthetic drugs.

The FENTANYL Results Act was signed into law by US President Joe Biden through the Fiscal Year 2023 National Defense Authorization Act late last year.

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Fentanyl is the leading killer of Americans between the ages of 18 and 49.

The FENTANYL Results Act would authorize programs through the State Department to build foreign law enforcement capacity to detect synthetic drugs and conduct an international exchange program for drug demand reduction experts, according to Democratic Rep. David Throne and Republican Rep. party Michael McCall, who co-sponsored the bill.

Throne said his nephew died of a fentanyl overdose alone in a hotel room.

A recent Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) report to the US Department of Justice highlights the growing threat posed by an animal sedative called xylazine (often known as “tranq”) mixed with illegal fentanyl. The risk of overdose is multiplied when Xylazine is combined with Fentanyl.

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“A kilogram of xylazine powder can be purchased online from Chinese suppliers with usual prices ranging from US$6 to US$20 per kilogram. At this low cost, its use as an additive can increase profits for illegal drug traffickers,” the DEA said in a report late last year.

On December 15, 2021, the State Department announced a $5 million reward for information leading to the arrest and/or conviction of Chuen Fat Yip, a Chinese national charged with a five-count federal indictment, including knowingly manufacturing and distributing a controlled substance will be illegally imported into the United States.

“We have no current information on Chuen Fat Yip,” a VOA spokesman said when asked if the Chinese government was cooperating in his case.

VOA Mandarin’s Yihua Lee contributed to this report.

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