The U.S. Treasury Department announced sweeping sanctions on a large network of Chinese manufacturers Tuesday for producing and distributing illicit drugs — including fentanyl — which the government says is responsible for taking the lives of thousands of Americans each year.
The Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control designated 28 individuals and entities involved in international proliferation efforts, including 12 entities and 13 people based in China.
The Biden administration has pressed Beijing to cut off the flow of the precursor chemicals used to produce fentanyl, largely by Mexican drug cartels. The U.S. estimates that synthetic drugs, mainly fentanyl, are the leading cause of death among Americans aged 18-49. Over 100,000 people died from overdoses in the U.S. last year.
“The reason I am here today is to send a crystal-clear signal to those whose line of work involves trafficking a product that robs Americans of their lives, and that robs children from their parents and parents from their children all over our country,” Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo said Tuesday. He added that the Treasury department was “laser-focused on finding and freezing” the money of those engaged in this illegal practice.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken made counter-narcotics a central part of his discussions with Chinese officials during a June visit to Beijing.
Officials from both sides established a working group to address the fentanyl scourge, but Beijing has demanded the U.S. lift economic sanctions on two Chinese government agencies described as critical for the battle against drugs — a step the Biden administration has resisted.
U.S. law enforcement is taking increasingly aggressive actions against alleged Chinese fentanyl traffickers. In June, the Drug Enforcement Agency lured Chinese nationals to the Pacific Island nation of Fiji where they were arrested as part of a counter-narcotics sting operation.
Beijing has, in turn, accused Washington of kidnapping the men.
The U.S.‘s actions on Tuesday target and indict Chinese entities involved in every step of the drug supply chain, including producing and marketing the precursor chemicals, manufacturing the pill cutters, and the shipments of narcotics.
The U.S. also blacklisted Canadian companies for facilitating the flow of fentanyl into the U.S. from China.
“A network-focused approach is essential to going after these criminals,” Adeyemo said.