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China-U.S. summit opened a new chapter for bilateral anti-drug cooperation
Updated 18:03, 19-Nov-2023
Wang Congyue
Suspected fentanyl pills are seized at the Los Angeles International Airport in Los Angeles, California, United States, October 19, 2022. /CFP
Suspected fentanyl pills are seized at the Los Angeles International Airport in Los Angeles, California, United States, October 19, 2022. /CFP

Suspected fentanyl pills are seized at the Los Angeles International Airport in Los Angeles, California, United States, October 19, 2022. /CFP

Editor's note: Wang Congyue, a special commentator on current affairs for CGTN, is an associate research fellow at the Institute of American Studies, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. The article reflects the author's opinions and not necessarily the views of CGTN.

During the meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Joe Biden at the Philori Estate in San Francisco, the two leaders decided to resume bilateral cooperation to combat the global illegal drug production and trafficking, including fentanyl. At the same time, they decided to establish a working group to promote continuous communication and law enforcement coordination on counter-narcotics issues.

Besides, the U.S. government issued a message on November 16, announcing that the United States would remove the Institution of Forensic Science of the Ministry of Public Security, which includes the National Narcotics Laboratory of China, from the "entity list" and lift sanctions on it.

There are two reasons why China and the U.S. could make such progress and successfully reach a consensus on drug control cooperation:

First and foremost, China and the U.S. have long been "non-competitive" in drug control cooperation. After entering the "honeymoon period" in the 1980s, the two governments signed the "China-U.S. Memorandum of Cooperation on Drug Control" in 1987, which started the process of bilateral drug control intelligence sharing, technology sharing, judicial mutual learning, training, and mutual assistance, and joint action in Southeast Asia. In 1997, the two countries signed a China-U.S. Joint Statement on drug control cooperation and subsequently sent liaison officers to each other to raise drug law enforcement cooperation to a new level.

Over the past three decades, despite the ups and downs in China-U.S. relations, we have always pursued in-depth and concrete cooperation in drug control, jointly solving many major drug trafficking cases. High-level dialogue mechanisms have been established, including the annual narcotics intelligence exchange, the Joint Liaison Group on Law Enforcement Cooperation, and the Law Enforcement and Cybersecurity Dialogue.

The drug law enforcement agencies of the two countries have rich experience in multi-channel and cross-departmental cooperation. The two sides are ready to exchange views and seek consensus on issues of mutual concern, such as the situation of drug trafficking in the region, the breeding of new psychoactive substances, drug-related anti-money laundering, reducing the flow of precursor chemicals, enhancing civic awareness, reducing drug demand and disturbance of drug cartels.

Secondly, there exists profound "symbiotic logic" in China-U.S. drug control cooperation. At present, new psychoactive substances such as fentanyl have become the number one challenge in the global anti-drug cause.

Especially when violent protests increasingly occupy the space of political freedom provided by Western democracy, the procedural rationality of the rule of law and representative democracy is seriously eroded, anti-globalization based on nativism is widespread, and identity labels and the gap between rich and poor have fragmented the human community.

People shoot up a mix of heroin and fentanyl on a street in Kensington, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States, July 19, 2021. /CFP
People shoot up a mix of heroin and fentanyl on a street in Kensington, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States, July 19, 2021. /CFP

People shoot up a mix of heroin and fentanyl on a street in Kensington, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States, July 19, 2021. /CFP

Collective anxiety around the world has also been combined with a culture of trauma to drive more people to seek solace in alcohol and drugs. Under the influence of the above international environment, the fentanyl crisis is not only a thorny problem to be solved by the Biden administration but also closely related to the stability and development of Chinese society.

In this sense, the two countries are exactly in the same situation on this issue. There are not only common concerns, but also a clear logic of "symbiosis of interests" within the macro framework of "building a community with a shared future for mankind."

For China, drug control is always a matter of priority for people's well-being and social prosperity. Maintaining cooperation with the U.S. on this issue will help China to improve its ability to detect and intercept new psychoactive substances before they spread domestically, and to stop the underground illegal manufacturing and trafficking networks in time.

Further, it is in line with China's consistent commitment to uphold the three international drug control conventions and uphold the international drug control regime. It will also help set an example of consistent and regular transnational drug control cooperation between China and other countries, preserving vitality for the changing China-U.S. relations.

For the U.S., China's positive response can effectively help the U.S. administration alleviate the chaos caused by the strong supply and demand of its domestic narcotics market, while sharing intelligence, technology, and notification of progress, as well as holding joint training and anti-drug campaigns. 

Given the "non-competitive relationship" and "symbiotic logic" between China and the U.S. in the field of drug control, the anti-drug cooperation centered on the joint fight against fentanyl is an important opportunity for the bilateral relations to welcome a stage of relaxation by pursuing common interests. It is expected to become a room for maneuvering to promote the continuous turnaround of bilateral diplomatic relations.

(If you want to contribute and have specific expertise, please contact us at opinions@cgtn.com. Follow @thouse_opinions on Twitter to discover the latest commentaries in the CGTN Opinion Section.)

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