Much of the world’s fentanyl is believed to be made in China, and the drug increasingly became a point of contention between the U.S. and China as fentanyl-related overdose deaths rose in the United States as the two countries found themselves stuck in a trade war. China had already classified over two dozen forms of fentanyl and its precursors as controlled substances, though under the new regulations all “fentanyl-related substances” will be classified as such starting May 1st.
Last year, Trump repeatedly chastised China over fentanyl. In August, while Congress was debating the STOP Act — which sought to curb fentanyl and other opioids from entering the States via international mail — Trump claimed on Twitter that the drug “comes pouring into the U.S. Postal System from China” and urged congress to stop “this poison from killing our children and destroying our country.” In January, Trump said that Xi promised him at the Group of 20 meeting in Buenos Aires, Argentina, that China would fully ban all fentanyl.
Despite following through on Xi’s promise, Chinese officials pointedly denied responsibility for opioid deaths in the U.S., pointing the finger instead at the United States. During a press conference, Liu Yuejin, the vice commissioner of the National Narcotics Control Commission, said the U.S. was weak on enforcement and fostered a culture of addiction, noting that the U.S. consumed 80 percent of the world’s opiates while boasting just 5 percent of the world’s population.
Fentanyl has played an outsized role in the ongoing opioid crisis, with fentanyl recently surpassing heroin as the drug most cited in overdose deaths. In March, the Center for Disease Control released a report that said fentanyl-related deaths have risen 12-fold between 2013 and 2016. The report also noted that people of color have been hit exponentially harder, with fentanyl-related deaths leaping 140.6% each year in the black community and 118.3% in the Hispanic community.