The first visit to China by a US congressional delegation since 2019 has begun with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer claiming that Chinese businesses are to blame for America’s epidemic of opioid addictions and overdose deaths. Schumer made these remarks after arriving in Shanghai on Saturday, emphasizing that it’s businesses – not China’s government – that are supplying ingredients for the production of fentanyl and other opioids in Mexico. He stated, “Every one of us knows families who have lost young men and women to fentanyl.”
Schumer is leading a bipartisan delegation of six senators who are visiting China amid deteriorating Sino-US relations. Their focus is on economic and security issues, and Schumer has emphasized that Washington doesn’t wish to “decouple” the world’s two largest economies.
The US government recently sanctioned multiple Chinese individuals and companies for allegedly distributing precursor chemicals associated with opioids. In response, Chinese officials argued that the fentanyl crisis is “rooted” in the US and that Washington shouldn’t try to shift blame for its failure to stop illegal drug use. In 2022, nearly 110,000 Americans died from taking illicit drugs, mostly fentanyl.
The congressional delegation arrived one day after President Joe Biden’s administration announced new trade restrictions on 42 Chinese companies that allegedly supplied US-derived components to the Russian defense industry amid the Ukraine crisis. The Chinese Commerce Ministry reacted by calling the move “a typical act of economic coercion and unilateral bullying.”
During his visit, Schumer expressed hope for “very productive discussions” with Chinese leaders. The delegation has sought a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Biden also mentioned the possibility of meeting with Xi during next month’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in San Francisco. However, the two governments have clashed increasingly in recent years amid the Russia-Ukraine conflict, escalating trade restrictions, and alleged US meddling in Taiwan.
Schumer intends to bring up concerns over Beijing’s allegedly unfair trade practices. He stated, “We believe we need reciprocity, allowing American companies to compete as freely in China as Chinese companies are able to compete here.”
The Senate delegation’s trip follows recent visits to China by top officials in the Biden administration, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, and climate envoy John Kerry.
President Biden has made disparaging comments about Chinese leaders multiple times while meeting with political donors this year. In June, he referred to Xi as a “dictator,” and two months later, he described the Chinese government as being run by “bad folks” who may take dangerous actions because their economy is a “ticking time bomb.”