President Biden will press the Chinese leader Xi Jinping on Wednesday to crack down on the Chinese firms that are helping to produce fentanyl, a potent drug that has killed hundreds of thousands of Americans.
An agreement to curb China’s illicit exports of fentanyl and, particularly, the chemicals that can be combined to make the drug, could be one of the more significant achievements for the United States out of Mr. Biden and Mr. Xi’s meeting, which is taking place as leaders from Pacific nations gather for an international conference in San Francisco.
China is home to a thriving chemical industry that pumps out compounds that are made into pharmaceuticals, fragrances, textile dyes and fertilizers. Some of those same compounds can also be combined to create fentanyl, an opioid that can be 100 times as potent as morphine.
U.S. officials argue that this vast chemical industry is playing a key role in the American fentanyl crisis by supplying the bulk of materials used in illegal drug labs, including in Mexico, which is now the largest exporter of fentanyl to the United States.
The Chinese government denies that its country plays such a pivotal role and instead blames the United States for harboring a culture of drug use.
“All-out marketing by pharmaceutical companies, over-prescription by doctors, ineffective government crackdowns and the negative implications of marijuana legalization are among the combination of factors behind an ever-growing market for narcotics,” China’s foreign ministry said in a statement last year.
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