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7 Oct, 2023 20:20

US Senate chief blames China for opioid crisis

Chuck Schumer has begun his visit to Shanghai by claiming that Chinese companies are fueling America’s fentanyl epidemic
US Senate chief blames China for opioid crisis

The first visit to China by a US congressional delegation since 2019 has begun with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer claiming that Chinese businesses are to blame for America’s epidemic of opioid addictions and overdose deaths.

Chinese firms are “fueling the fentanyl crisis that is poisoning communities across the United States,” Schumer said after arriving in Shanghai on Saturday. “Every one of us knows families who have lost young men and women to fentanyl.” The New York Democrat stressed that it’s businesses – not China’s government – that are supplying ingredients for production of fentanyl and other opioids in Mexico.

Schumer leads a bipartisan delegation of six senators who are visiting China amid deteriorating Sino-US relations. They are focused on economic and security issues, and the majority leader has emphasized that Washington doesn’t wish to “decouple” the world’s two largest economies.

The US government this week sanctioned multiple Chinese individuals and companies for allegedly distributing precursor chemicals associated with opioids. Chinese officials have argued that the fentanyl crisis is “rooted” in the US and that Washington shouldn’t try to shift blame for its failure to stop illegal drug use. Nearly 110,000 Americans died from taking illicit drugs, mostly fentanyl, in 2022.

The congressional delegation arrived one day after President Joe Biden’s administration announced new trade restrictions on 42 Chinese companies that allegedly supplied US-derived components to the Russian defense industry amid the Ukraine crisis. The Chinese Commerce Ministry reacted on Saturday by calling the move “a typical act of economic coercion and unilateral bullying.”

Schumer said he hopes to hold “very productive discussions” with Chinese leaders during his visit. The delegation has sought a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Biden told reporters on Friday that he may meet with Xi during next month’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in San Francisco. The two governments have clashed increasingly in recent years amid the Russia-Ukraine conflict, escalating trade restrictions and alleged US meddling in Taiwan.

Schumer said he planned to bring up concerns over Beijing’s allegedly unfair trade practices. “We believe we need reciprocity, allowing American companies to compete as freely in China as Chinese companies are able to compete here,” he said.

The Senate delegation’s trip follows recent visits to China by top officials in the Biden administration, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and climate envoy John Kerry.

Biden has made disparaging comments about Chinese leaders multiple times while meeting with political donors this year. In June, he referred to Xi as a “dictator.” Two months later, he said the Chinese government is run by “bad folks” who may take dangerous actions because their economy is a “ticking time bomb.”