A day after President Xi Jinping and Vice President Joe Biden agreed that Beijing would stem the export of items used to make the opioid fentanyl, the government warned Chinese chemical companies that if they manufacture or sell precursor chemicals for illicit drugs, they could face criminal charges. In a circular issued on Thursday, the office of the China National Narcotics Control Commission warned any person or company, including postal and logistics firms, that is aware of the sale, transportation, or export of illegal drugs or precursor chemicals to be aware of the risk of running into the “long-arm jurisdiction” of foreign law enforcement agencies.
The United States has long accused China of supplying an illicit flow of precursor chemicals that are used to make the lethal opioid fentanyl, fueling a drug overdose crisis in the United States. The chemical is 50 times more potent than heroin and is often mixed with other substances, sometimes with deadly results.
At a news conference after meeting with Xi on Wednesday in San Francisco, Biden said the deal would “save lives.” He also promised to “trust but verify” Chinese actions. The White House later said it would launch a counternarcotics working group with China and improve law enforcement and intelligence sharing on controlled substance matters.
During the talks, Biden said he and Xi were also discussing the violence in Gaza, where Israeli strikes have killed more than 11,300 Palestinians since October 7. Biden called on Israel to extend humanitarian pauses in the besieged enclave and urged a negotiated settlement.
The Justice Department unsealed indictments in the Southern District of Florida and the Eastern District of New York on Thursday against Hebei Shenghao Import and Export Co Ltd and three Chinese-based individuals for fentanyl trafficking conspiracy, synthetic opioids distribution, precursor chemicals importation, defrauding the U.S. Postal Service and international money laundering. According to the indictments, the defendants allegedly openly advertised their ability to thwart U.S. customs and use fake shipping labels and special delivery procedures to avoid detection by federal agencies.
Experts say fentanyl and other drug overdose deaths in the United States could decline if the illicit supply chain is cut off. But the success of the Trump-Xi deal will be hard to verify, says Hudson Institute analyst John Walters. He says that if the number of fentanyl-related deaths continues to increase, it will show that China is not serious about its commitment. He adds that the Trump administration will have to keep up the pressure on China. “If the fentanyl deaths go down, we’ll know that the Chinese are doing something,” he said. “If they don’t, we’ll know that the Chinese are liars and failing.”