Illegal Drug Trade in China

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Treaties and conventions

China is a party to the 1988 U.N. Drug Convention, the 1961 U.N. Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs as amended by the 1972 Protocol, and the 1971 U.N. Convention on Psychotropic Substances. China is a member of the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL), and has been a member of the INCB since 1984. China also participates in a drug control program with Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Russia, and the United States. This program is designed to enhance information sharing and coordination of drug law enforcement activities by countries in and around the Central Asian Region. In June 2000, China and the United States signed a Mutual Legal Assistance Agreement (MLAT). This treaty subsequently went into effect on March 8, 2001. In 1999, China and the United States signed a Bilateral Customs Mutual Assistance Agreement. However, this agreement has not yet been activated. A May 1997 United States and China Memorandum of Understanding on law enforcement cooperation allows the two countries to provide assistance on drug investigations and prosecutions on a case-by-case basis. China has over 30 MLATs with 24 nations covering both civil and criminal matters. In 1996, China signed MLATs that gave specific attention to drug trafficking with Russia, Mexico, and Pakistan. China also signed a drug control cooperation agreement with India. China and Burma continue dialogue on counter-drug issues, such as drug trafficking by the United Wa State Army along the China–Burma border. The Government of China encourages and provides assistance for alternative crop programs in Burma along the China–Burma border. China is also building on Memoranda of Understanding that are currently in place with Burma,Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

The illegal drug trade in China is influenced by factors such as history, location, size, populaion, and current economic conditions. China has one-fifth of the world's population and a large and expanding economy. Opium has played an important role in Chinese history since before the Opium Wars in the mid-19th century. China's large land mass, close proximity to the Golden Triangle, and numerous coastal cities with large and modern port facilities make it an attractive transit center to drug traffickers. China's status in drug trafficking has changed significantly since the 1980s, when the country for the first time opened its borders to trade and tourism after 40 years of relative isolation. As trade with Southeast Asian countries and the elsewhere increased, so did the flow of illicit drugs and precursor chemicals from, into, and through China. China introduced licensing management of imports and exports of chemicals that could be used to make narcotics last year, which stopped 3,490 tons of such chemicals from flowing abroad, 52.6 percent more than the previous year. This year, China would accelerate the enactment of an ordinance on the control of chemicals for drug manufacturing, which would provide specific standards for the management and inspection of the production, sale, storage, transportation, import and export of such chemicals,  China is being forced to develop a complex counter-drug strategy that includes prevention, education, eradication, interdiction, and rehabilitation.

The major drugs of choice are injectable heroin, morphine, smokeable opium, crystal methamphetamine, nimetazepam, temazepam, and MDMA. Preferences between opium and heroin/morphine, and methods of administration, differ from region to region within China. The use of heroin and opium has increased among the younger population, as income has grown and the youth have more free time. China considers crystal methamphetamine abuse second to heroin/morphine as a major drug problem. The use of MDMA has only recently become popular in China’s growing urban areas....
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