China has announced that it will begin regulating all fentanyl-related drugs as a class of controlled substances, in a long advocated by the United States as a method of stemming the flow of lethal opioids from the Asian nation.
At a press conference on Monday, Liu Yuejin (pictured), vice commissioner of China’s National Narcotics Control Commission, confirmed that the regulations would take effect from May 1st.
“We firmly believe that listing the entire class of fentanyl substances will completely block the loopholes that enable lawbreakers to evade punishment by simply modifying one or several atoms, functional groups or other groups,” Liu said. “It will effectively prevent the massive abuse of fentanyl substances and illegal drug trafficking and smuggling activities, and contribute to global drug control with China’s wisdom and power.”
The move will be welcomed by officials in Washington, who have long complained that China’s relaxed approach to synthetic opioids has led to them becoming a major source for the current crisis across the United States.
Beijing has repeatedly downplayed these claims, instead blaming American culture and lifestyle on the rise of people turning to dangerous illegal substances.
“China’s control over fentanyl drugs is very strict. It cannot be the main source for the United States. The U.S. accusation lacks evidence and is contrary to the facts,” Liu told reporters. “We believe that the United States itself is the main factor in the abuse of fentanyl there.”
Fentanyl is a narcotic 50 times stronger than heroin that has in recent years caused record overdose deaths across the United States. With China being a major supplier of the drug, the issue has repeatedly come up in trade talks between the two nations.
Back in December, President Donald Trump described such a move by China as a “potential game changer,” with those found guilty of trading illegal substances facing sentences that include the death penalty.
“One of the very exciting things to come out of my meeting with President Xi of China is his promise to me to criminalize the sale of deadly Fentanyl coming into the United States. It will now be considered a ‘controlled substance,'” he wrote at the time.
“This could be a game changer on what is considered to be the worst and most dangerous, addictive and deadly substance of them all. Last year over 77,000 people died from Fentanyl,” he continued. “If China cracks down on this ‘horror drug,’ using the Death Penalty for distributors and pushers, the results will be incredible!