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China Cleans Biden’s Clock in Fentanyl Negotiations

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The U.S. under the Biden Administration is caught in its own incompetence, wrestling with the desire to combat the deadly fentanyl crisis domestically while trying to dissuade China from allowing the manufacture and export of precursor chemicals for fentanyl, a potent opioid responsible for a surge of overdose deaths in the United States.

Two things are certain. First, nothing in China happens without the knowledge of Chinese Communist Party, they certainly are aware that these chemicals are being sent, and what they are being used for. Second, this activity fits in with their plans, and if they wanted it stopped, it would instantly stop. In this respect, this is an act of war.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has proposed a working group with China to rekindle talks about combating fentanyl, a matter of high importance for the administration. A significant hurdle has been the insistence of Chinese officials that the U.S. first lifts sanctions on a Chinese police forensics institute. This institute was sanctioned due to suspected involvement in human-rights abuses, a claim China denies. Thus, this issue has become a sticking point in the negotiations. However these are relatively petty issues that some see as a delaying action, and nothing more.

China further asserts that the U.S. hasn’t done enough to control prescription drugs, stem domestic demand for illegal drugs, or raise public awareness about the fentanyl issue. China also views the insistence on keeping sanctions on its police institute as an impediment to counternarcotics cooperation. More stalling tactics, waiting to see what the Biden Administration is willing to put on the table.

“The Secretary discussed a working group on fentanyl that would allow each side to raise and discuss their concerns, and we continue to call on the PRC to stop the flow of fentanyl precursor chemicals from China to the cartels,” says Matthew Miller, a State Department spokesman.

Despite the ongoing tensions and mistrust in U.S.-China relations, the administration had hoped that addressing the fentanyl issue could open up a pathway for potential cooperation, similar to that of climate change. The impasse in talks reveals the depth of mistrust between the two superpowers.

The Biden Administration’s contemplation of lifting sanctions on the Chinese police institute is seen as a possible concession to advance one of the president’s domestic priorities. Yet, any action in this direction risks backlash in Washington, given the allegations of widespread human-rights abuses against the institute.

Secretary Blinken has made it clear that he expects China to show strong commitment towards combating the fentanyl issue. Blinken stated, “We agreed to explore setting up a working group or joint effort so that we can shut off the flow of precursor chemicals.”

Beijing, on the other hand, calls for the U.S. to “respect the facts, withdraw the sanctions, and stop smearing and scapegoating.” Beijing argues that the sanctions are hampering China’s counternarcotics efforts, limiting its access to American technology necessary for its work.

The Biden Administration is being thoroughly out-negotiated. In the meantime, people in the U.S. are dying of fentanyl abuse.

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