The Modern Opium War: America’s Fentanyl Crisis

The Chinese are waging a quiet, brutal war against Americans.

The story

America’s explosion of fentanyl deaths has brought pain and destruction to countless families and communities. Over 100,000 lives were lost in 2023, surging the decade’s total overdoses to over half a million.

China produces 97 percent of precursor ingredients for fentanyl, then relies on partners in Mexico and South America for manufacturing and distribution.

Though financial gains for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) are substantial, a comprehensive Congressional report detailed the extent to which fentanyl trafficking is being used for more nefarious purposes than profitable drug trade. It’s a geopolitical weapon that sows chaos and death in America.

The politics

Former Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI), who headed the special House committee responsible for the Congressional report, said, “Through its actions … the Chinese Communist Party is telling us that it wants more fentanyl entering our country. It wants the chaos and devastation that has resulted from the epidemic.”

Testifying before Congress in the wake of the fentanyl report release, former Attorney General Bill Barr stated, “The committee’s work has uncovered persuasive evidence that the PRC and CCP are not just bystanders; they are the prime movers … knee-deep in actively sponsoring, encouraging, and facilitating the production and export of fentanyl and fentanyl’s raw materials for distribution in the United States.”

In 2022, China’s ambassador to the United States pushed back against this narrative, telling the press that some Americans “fantasize that China is shipping fentanyl to the United States ‘as a form of payback for the Opium Wars’ and that ‘North America has been flooded with precursor chemicals from China’ … These comments are false and misleading.”

When President Biden met with Chinese President Xi Jinping in November, the White House proclaimed that the two nations would resume “bilateral cooperation” to crack down on the synthetic drug trade. Yet, to date, China has done nothing but promise. Its fentanyl flow into America is used as a bargaining chip.

Beyond the headlines

To the CCP’s dismay, some have likened its trafficking of fentanyl in the United States to the British facilitating the spread of opium into imperialist China during the 19th century. Qing rulers of China sought to halt opium imports due to the drug’s devastating impact on the population. In response, the British launched two Opium Wars, sacked Peking, humiliated the emperor, and continued opium imports to keep the population subdued and profits rolling in.

The U.S. has struggled with opioid addiction for decades, and the Chinese likely saw an opportunity to exacerbate American societal instability — a long pursued objective.

To boost trafficking efficiency while securing a diplomatic win, Chinese authorities claimed years ago that they were "cracking down" on fentanyl exports. However, they transitioned circa 2019 to exporting fentanyl precursors to Mexican cartels to complete production and distribution. The CCP is actively employing America’s enemies to spread poison to the populace while denying it.

Chinese mafias are also heavily involved in America's illegal marijuana market, taking advantage of states with lenient regulations despite the drug's legalization. These criminal organizations are reportedly highly sophisticated and well-funded, very possibly indicating involvement with the CCP.

Why it matters

The fentanyl crisis plays a role in the steadily declining men’s labor force participation rate and costs United States taxpayers $1.5 trillion annually. The Chinese government is keenly aware of the effects of fentanyl on the American population and, while making overtures re a crackdown, has too great an interest in its continuation.

Economic implications are only one of a bevy of reasons China is facilitating the spread of deadly drugs into the U.S. Their contribution toward the deaths of over 100,000 Americans annually is very valuable; creating discord in America’s communities and costing the U.S. government seven percent of its GDP annually is well worth the effort.

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