Joe Biden to make controversial human rights trade-off as price for China’s help tackling fentanyl crisis


Joe Biden is set to lift sanctions on a police unit that monitors Chinese Uyghurs in exchange for a crackdown on fentanyl exporters, in a controversial deal to be agreed with Xi Jinping.

The US president and his Chinese counterpart will hold a bilateral meeting in the margins of the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation summit in San Francisco on Wednesday – their first face-to-face engagement in a year.

Washington has asked China to crack down on exporters who send fentanyl or its components to suppliers in Mexico, who then traffick the drug into the United States.

In return, Beijing has asked the US government to end its sanctions on China’s forensic police institute, which has been accused of running mass surveillance on the Muslim Uyghur people in Xinjiang province.

Details of the agreement were reported by Bloomberg, and have not been officially confirmed by the White House in advance of the meeting.

Mr Biden has said that cracking down on fentanyl is one of his top priorities but the opioid crisis in the United States has only worsened during his term in office, as large quantities of the drug are imported via Mexico.

Rights Violations

Chinese companies continue to export the drug’s ingredients to Mexico, where they are mixed, despite recent action by Beijing to limit the export of the required chemicals.

The US had previously asked China to expand its restrictions to cover the ingredients but Beijing refused, blaming American sanctions on the Chinese public security ministry’s institute of forensic science.

The institute was sanctioned in May 2020 by the Donald Trump administration, which said it was “complicit in human rights violations and abuses committed in China’s campaign of repression, mass arbitrary detention, forced labour and high-technology surveillance” against Uyghurs and other minorities in Xinjiang.

Lifting sanctions on a state agency accused of repressing Uyghurs will prove controversial with human rights groups who argue that the US should not pander to China on humanitarian issues in exchange for concessions elsewhere.

Earlier this month, the US Treasury sanctioned 13 people and 12 businesses in China it said were involved in producing and exporting fentanyl ingredients.

Wally Adeyemo, the deputy secretary at the US treasury, said the government was taking action “to expose and disrupt a network responsible for manufacturing and distributing illicit drugs, including fentanyl and other substances that take thousands of American lives each year”.

The sanctions were directed at people in China who produce Xylazine, a powerful sedative that is cut with fentanyl by suppliers in Mexico before the drug is trafficked into the United States.

The summit is also likely to see the resumption of communication between the two countries’ militaries. Jake Sullivan, Mr Biden’s national security adviser, said he was “determined to see the re-establishment of military-to-military ties because he believes it’s in the US security interest.

“We need those lines of communication so that there aren’t mistakes or miscalculations or miscommunication,” he told CBS News.

The meeting follows months of frosty relations, after a Chinese spy balloon was shot down by the US military off the coast of South Carolina in February.

Mr Biden has not met Mr Xi in person since November last year, and the Chinese premier has not visited the US since 2017, when he travelled to meet Mr Trump.

A trip to China by Antony Blinken, the US secretary of state, was delayed by the balloon incident but ultimately went ahead in June.

Military firepower

While Mr Biden has stressed his desire to “de-risk, not decouple” the US’s relationship with China, his administration has also entered into direct competition over military firepower in the South China Sea and the domestic production of electric vehicles and semiconductors.

This week’s summit is also likely to see extensive discussion of artificial intelligence (AI) and could see both countries agree not to integrate the technology into their nuclear weapons systems.

Republican politicians have accused the White House of a “decline in action” against China in favour of diplomatic efforts to improve relations.

The House of Representatives’ committee on the Chinese Communist Party said last week that Mr Biden’s “very real trade-offs have led to negligible benefit” on key issues including tension in the Taiwan Strait and China’s “campaign of espionage” against the US.

“While your administration’s public position on competition and co-operation with the PRC [People’s Republic of China] has remained the same, it is clear that competitive actions have been sacrificed to advance aimless, zombie-like engagement,” the committee said.

The post Joe Biden to make controversial human rights trade-off as price for China’s help tackling fentanyl crisis appeared first on The Telegraph.

Leave A Reply