China Feeds America’s Addictions
In the United States, a person dies from a drug overdose every five-and-a-half minutes. The vast majority of these deaths involve opioids. The opioid crisis has touched every corner of the United States, from the Rust Belt states of Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, to the suburbs of San Francisco. In the words of former Republican Congressman Greg Walden, opioids are “an equal opportunity destroyer.”
Since April of last year, more than 100,000 Americans have died of drug overdoses, a new milestone in the nation’s ever-worsening crisis. To put that number in perspective, 70,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2019. Of the more than 100,000 drug-overdose deaths recorded in 2020, 64,178 involved synthetic opioids like fentanyl—the deadliest of all the opioids. For context, 2019 saw 36,000 Americans die from the use of synthetic opioids; in 2018, that number was about 31,000. Fentanyl, which is 80 to 100 times stronger than morphine and some 50 times stronger than heroin, has ravaged communities across America.
According to the Brookings Institution, China has played a key role in flooding the United States with the illicit drug since 2013. Previously, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) promised to curtail the manufacturing and distribution of fentanyl-class drugs. However, this particular promise—like most promises from Beijing—was an empty one. Today, according to the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, China is “the primary country of origin for illicit fentanyl and fentanyl-related substances trafficked into the United States.”
To think that the CCP is not somehow involved in the flow of dangerous drugs into the U.S. requires a complete suspension of disbelief. Remember, this regime is responsible stealing the private data of tens of millions of Americans. As someone who has lived in the country, I speak from experience when I say the following: The CCP has files on every single citizen, including those who are involved in illegal dealings. As the author Bonnie Girard noted, “China has numerous potential avenues for cracking down on illegal drug production and export. What it lacks is the political will to do so.”
Instead of sending the drugs directly from China to the U.S., Chinese drug traffickers have formed strong alliances with Mexican drug cartels. According to a recent U.S. government report, Chinese traffickers recently “shifted from primarily manufacturing finished fentanyl to primarily exporting precursors to Mexican cartels, who manufacture illicit fentanyl and deliver the final product.” To compound matters, “Chinese brokers are laundering Mexican drug money through China’s financial system.” At the same time, the CCP refuses to cooperate with “U.S. authorities on criminal and money laundering investigations, conducting joint operations, and U.S. requests for inspections and law enforcement assistance.”
When we think of drugs coming to the United States from Mexico, we’re tempted to think of the U.S.’s porous southern border as the primary culprit. While cartels do exploit weaknesses at the border to funnel fentanyl and meth into the U.S., most drugs from Mexico enter the U.S. through various ports rather than crossing the Rio Grande.
Chinese private-sector companies with close ties to Beijing have invested in a number of Mexican ports. In 2015, Chinese investors signed a deal to build a new port in Nayarit, a state synonymous with drugs and violence. Last year, U.S. agents arrested former Mexican Defense Minister Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda, accusing him of working with Nayarit’s H2 cartel, one of the deadliest cartels in Mexico. Zepeda, according to agents, was helping the cartel traffic drugs into the United States.
In October of this year, the U.S. sanctioned four Jalisco cartel members, accusing them of using the port of Manzanillo to traffic drugs into the U.S. Interestingly, China Harbour, a subsidiary of the state-owned China Communications Construction Company, has invested heavily in this particular port.
In the Mexican state of Veracruz, companies with close ties to the CCP are financing a number of projects, including Veracruz Port, one of the biggest ports in the region. For well over a decade, this particular port has played a key role in Mexico’s drug trade. Again—to think that the Chinese Communist Party is not fully aware of what’s occurring is naive.
In February of this year, 36 percent of Americans called President Biden “weak” on China. In mid-November, the 79-year-old released a statement mourning all those who have died from drug overdoses over the past 12 months. Two days prior to his statement, he met with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Biden failed to bring up China’s role in importing so much destruction and misery into the United States.
John Mac Ghlionn is a researcher and essayist. His work has been published by the likes of National Review, New York Post, South China Morning Post, and the Sydney Morning Herald. He can be found on Twitter at @ghlionn.