The Messenger

Xi’s False Promises on Fentanyl

President and CEO
Senior Fellow
United States President Joe Biden speaks during a meeting about countering the flow of fentanyl into the United States in the Roosevelt Room of the White House on November 21, 2023, Washington, DC. (Drew Angerer via Getty Images)

The Biden administration was taking a victory lap on a new fentanyl agreement with China even before the president met with Communist Party chief Xi Jinping in California.

Although it was by no means the marquee item on the summit agenda, Biden hailed China’s pledge to work to reduce the flow of precursors to the ultra-powerful synthetic opioid into the “Western Hemisphere” — a presidential euphemism for the Mexican cartels that produce the drug and traffic it into the United States.   

Illegally manufactured fentanyl kills about 150 Americans by overdose every day. It devastates whole communities. In some parts of rural America, everyone knows somebody who has succumbed.

These are not, generally speaking, deaths by suicide. Fentanyl was originally designed as a painkiller for excruciating end-stage cancer. Now, drug lords often lace it into cocaine and other opioids to create a combination so powerful it’s unintentionally lethal to those expecting something different. It’s 50 times as strong as heroin.

True, we have work to do to reduce demand for drugs — whether as a sop to hopelessness and despair or to satisfy Friday-night thrill-seekers. But those who unleashed this astonishing wave of lethality in the United States knew what they were doing. Call it a low-profile massacre.

Xi and China understand this perfectly well. And in this context, even if Xi intended to deliver on what he promised — a highly dubious proposition at best — the agreement would be woefully inadequate to the present danger.

Killing and addicting Americans is an obvious and intentional attack on the United States by the Chinese Communist Party and its collaborators. The assault is doing exactly what it’s intended to: debilitating and sapping the self-confidence of as many swaths of America as the drug can reach.

Chinese leaders have often protested that their ability to control the flow of fentanyl precursors is limited in a country as vast as China. They try, they claim, but there is only so much they can do.

Nonsense. Each day, it seems, brings new revelations of the extent of China’s spying operations in the United States. FBI director Christopher Wray has said his agency opens an average of two counterintelligence investigations into Chinese spying every day. From “tourists” seeking to take pictures at U.S. military bases to the land rush theft of U.S. intellectual property to the extensive monitoring of Chinese nationals legitimately working here, China’s intelligence operatives keep very busy. 

American media’s reporting on China tends to focus on relatively new electronic means of monitoring and surveilling the Chinese population. Yet it would be terminally naïve to think that Xi and the CCP don’t have an even more extensive secret police operation in place at home. If its informers are unaware of the operation of fentanyl supply chains in China, it’s because they have instructions not to look.

Under Xi, China is a highly controlled and monitored one-party state. If he gives the order, he can stop the flow of poison and the money laundering at will. A serious crackdown could disable existing networks and export channels and deter others from going into that line of work. 

Yet despite pledges dating back to the Obama administration, such a crackdown has never been forthcoming. It’s time for our leaders to understand that America is being played. The Chinese government lies as a routine matter of diplomacy and information warfare. Xi is happy to give assurances he has no intention of acting on in exchange for tangible deliverables from the U.S. government.

The Biden administration knows — or should know — these realities. That makes it complicit in the pretense that the CCP is acting to stop the killing and addicting of Americans. Perversely, the administration’s unwillingness to level with the American people, who can see the fentanyl devastation every day, lends credence to the CCP’s effort to portray the U.S. government itself as cynical, dishonest and corrupt.

“It’s going to save lives,” Biden said of his fentanyl agreement with Xi. As it happens, we have a public health reporting system in place to assess the president’s promise. If, this month, the CCP truly stops aiding and abetting the poisoning of Americans, we should see a dramatic decrease in overdose deaths and addiction by January 2024.

That would be welcome, but it would be foolish to bet on it.

Read in The Messenger.