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Friends that fight fentanyl together, stay together

A bottle of Fentanyl pharmaceuticals is displayed in Anyang city, central China's Henan province, 12 November 2018.

A bottle of Fentanyl pharmaceuticals is displayed in Anyang city, central China's Henan province, 12 November 2018.

After a four-year hiatus, the US and China have restarted joint talks to fight fentanyl. Chemicals for making the synthetic opioid flow from Chinese companies to drug cartels in Mexico and then to the US – where they are fueling the deadliest drug crisis the country has ever seen.

The talks aim to curb these precursor chemicals through better tracking and labeling, and if the US gets its way, by Beijing cracking down on the chemical manufacturers.


Why it matters: The talks are a sign that US-China relations are continuing to stabilize after years of tensions over COVID-19, trade, cross-strait posturing, and human rights violations. They are also a win for President Joe Biden: The fentanyl epidemic is sure to be a major 2024 campaign issue.

Will it work? Critics argue that the only way to stop the more than 100,000 Americans dying from fentanyl each year is through addiction-mitigating social policies.

A deadly side-effect: Curbing precursor chemical exports may inadvertently increase violence in Mexico as cartels fight to control the limited supply.

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