GOP Threatens to Block President Biden from Easing Sanctions on China in Exchange for Fentanyl Cooperation

Republicans in the House are threatening to block President Biden from agreeing to China’s reported demand that the United States lift human rights sanctions against Beijing in exchange for cooperation on the trafficking of fentanyl.

“The [Chinese Communist Party] is using American lives as a bargaining chip to achieve sanctions relief for its human rights abuses,” Republican China select committee Chair Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin, GOP Representative Young Kim of California, and Republican House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Michael McCaul of Texas, wrote in a letter to the Biden administration.

Their letter, which was sent to Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and Secretary of State Antony Blinken, cited a Wall Street Journal report that said Chinese officials want President Biden to lift specific economic penalties related to the CCP’s human rights abuses in exchange for China’s help to stem the flow of fentanyl that is ravaging the U.S. They also warned that if the talks continue in that direction, Congress could possibly move to block the effort.

“Given how many of our constituents have died from fentanyl overdoses, we expect the Administration to regularly engage our offices on efforts it is taking to hold the PRC accountable to these obligations,” said the letter. “We do not support lifting export controls or sanctions as a condition for cooperation with [China], and we are considering legislation to ensure the Administration cannot circumvent Congress.”

The added, “China’s Ministry of Public Security’s (MPS) Institute of Forensic Science was added to the Department of Commerce’s Entity List on June 5, 2020, for engaging in human rights violations and abuses in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR). This demonstrates the CCP’s continued efforts to link unrelated issues as a negotiation tactic and to leverage diplomatic engagement as a reward for CCP-perceived ‘good behavior.’”

In institute was sanctioned in 2020 by the Trump administration over “China’s campaign of repression, mass arbitrary detention, forced labor and high-technology surveillance against Uighurs, Kazakhs, and other members of Muslim minority groups,” according to documents from the government. 

Lawmakers accuse China of trying to ease penalties at the cost of American lives

The GOP lawmakers are accusing China of trying to ease the penalties at the expense of the lives of thousands of Americans that are taken by fentanyl every year.

“According to the Center for Disease Control, more than 105,000 Americans died of drug overdoses, with 66 percent of those deaths related to synthetic opioids, including fentanyl, in the 12 months ending in October 2021. Further, fentanyl overdoses are a leading cause of death for Americans aged 18-45. According to the Drug Enforcement Agency, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) remains the primary source of fentanyl-related substances trafficked into the United States,” the lawmakers wrote.

The group accused the Biden State Department of side-stepping pressure to take action to emphasize instead “the importance of engagement and future meetings — which are predominately occurring in [China] — with CCP officials as success itself.”

“As we expected, we have not seen any concrete or tangible deliverables from meetings with the CCP. Key elements of our ability to conduct risk management, such as military-to-military communications, have decreased recently, and we still have no deliverables on the fentanyl crisis, which has worsened under this Administration,” said the letter. 

“We are therefore concerned that the Biden Administration continues unproductive meetings with the PRC while not producing any results,” added the group.