The ‘New Opium War’: America’s deadly fentanyl invasion could be China’s revenge for ‘century of humiliation’

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The United States is losing the New Opium War with China. 

Leaders in Washington, D.C. appear unwilling to acknowledge that a fight even exists.

A crisis of addiction in China in the 19th century, reportedly fed by European imperial powers, paved the way for foreign domination and sparked two conflicts called the Opium Wars. 

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It marked the depths of a social, cultural and political catastrophe widely known in China today as the “century of humiliation.”

Revenge for this lingering insult to China’s national psyche, whether intended or tacit, helps explain America’s deadly opioid crisis today.

Opium Wars

The Anglo-Chinese War, also known as the Opium War or the First Opium War, was a series of military engagements fought between Britain and the Qing dynasty between 1839 and 1842. This black-and-white photograph shows two undernourished Chinese men.  (Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, is manufactured in Mexico by drug cartels but made with what are known as “precursor chemicals” produced in China. 

About 108,000 Americans died of drug overdoses last year, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), with two-thirds of those deaths caused by fentanyl.

“China finds fentanyl a profitable export to Mexico with the added benefit it kills 100,000 Americans yearly.”

The poison pouring across America’s porous southern border appears to be part of China’s robust multi-front asymmetric war against the United States led by a Communist Party intent on “world domination.”

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China “finds fentanyl a profitable export to Mexico with the added benefit [that] it kills 100,000 Americans yearly,” military historian Victor Davis Hanson, senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, told Fox News Digital. 

Man in Seattle holding a needle for meth use

A homeless man holds a syringe after injecting methamphetamine into his arm on March 13, 2022, in Seattle, Washington. Widespread drug addiction is endemic in Seattle’s large homeless community  (John Moore/Getty Images)

“So a win/win in the Chinese Communist Party’s eyes.”

Fentanyl poisoning is the leading cause of death among adults ages 18 to 45, the CDC reports, killing more Americans in this age group than gun violence, auto accidents, COVID-19 or cancer.

China under the Qing Dynasty, its last imperial rulers, was flooded with opium by Great Britain and other European powers in the mid-1800s, according to commonly reported history. 

It created widespread addiction, lawlessness, social strife, family crises, urban decay, the docile malaise of millions and streets filled with sad, emaciated addicts in cities such as Shanghai.  

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First-hand accounts of China during its opium crisis sound similar to scenes of the ugly impact of opioid addiction found on the streets of many American cities today.

“By 1840 there were 10 million Chinese opium addicts, largely sustained by illegal British imports,” according to the National Army Museum in the United Kingdom.

Ray Donovan, DEA

Ray Donovan, then Chief of Operations of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), stands in front of “The Faces of Fentanyl” wall, which displays photos of Americans who died of a fentanyl overdose, at the DEA headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, on July 13, 2022.  (Agnes BUN / AFP via Getty Images)

The Qing Dynasty fought back in the two Opium Wars: first against Britain (1839-42) and then against Britain and France (1856-60). 

China was soundly defeated. Among other outcomes, it ceded the vast port city of Hong Kong to Britain at the end of the First Opium War. Hong Kong returned to China’s dominion in 1997.  

“The history of the Opium Wars has cast a long shadow over China’s relations with Western countries like Britain, and also the United States,” British scholar Julia Lovell, author of “The Opium War,” told Fox News Digital. 

“For at least a century, public memory of the First Opium War in China has served as the founding episode of Chinese patriotism.”

“For at least a century, public memory of the First Opium War in China has served as the founding episode of Chinese patriotism.”

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The Opium Wars had a profound impact on geopolitics here in the 21st century. 

The Communist Party rose to power in China after World War II by fomenting anger at foreign powers. The history of the opium crisis proved a powerful tool to tap into Chinese nationalist pride by highlighting the alleged evils of western influence. 

fentanyl china

The deadly synthetic opiod fentanyl trafficked into the U.S. from Mexico is manufactured largely from precursor chemicals made in China.  (iStock/Fox News)

The Opium Wars, in other words, helped communist revolutionaries take control of China after it was freed from its last foreign occupier, Imperial Japan, during World War II. 

The United States, ironically in hindsight, liberated occupied China, including major cities Beijing, Nanjing and Shanghai, from Japan during World War II. Tens of thousands of American troops died in the Pacific War that gained China its independence from yet another foreign oppressor.

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The sacrifices made by American GIs and their families to end China’s “century of humiliation” is largely unmentioned by both the Chinese Communist Party and American academia today. 

It ultimately led to the increasingly ominous standoff that now exists between the U.S. and China. 

There is no direct evidence that China seeds the fentanyl catastrophe in America in retribution for the Opium Wars. 

Fentanyl billboard

A billboard put up by Families Against Fentanyl displays their message on the 10 Freeway near Peck Road in El Monte, California, on Thursday, April 6, 2023. Jim Rauh founded Families Against Fentanyl after it claimed the life of his 37-year-old son, Thomas, in 2015.  (Paul Bersebach/MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty Images)

“I find that speculative and unlikely,” said Lovell. “There would need to be a clear evidence trail for anyone to claim that.”

But China is the source of this highly addictive, highly lethal synthetic opioid killing thousands of people each month in the United States. 

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And this deadly attack on a western rival is consistent with a narrative that’s foundational to the Chinese Communist Party’s existence.

“China is the lead nation for the production of precursor chemicals used to make fentanyl and the Chinese chemical industry is the most unregulated industry in all of China.”

The fentanyl crisis is sourced in an industry that conveniently enjoys unusually lax oversight from Chinese leaders. 

“China is the lead nation for the production of precursor chemicals used to make fentanyl and the Chinese chemical industry is the most unregulated industry in all of China,” Ray Donovan, the recently retired global Chief of Operations for the Drug Enforcement Administration, told Fox News Digital. 

West 43rd Street homeless man

A man sleeps in the rain on the edge of the sidewalk and West 43rd Street in Midtown Manhattan on Sunday, Sept. 11, 2022, just two blocks from Times Square. Drug addiction fuels similar scenes in cities around the U.S. (Kerry J. Byrne/Fox News Digital)

“I think if China wants to do more to regulate it, they certainly can. If there was willingness to stop it, they could get ahead of the problem.”

Chinese-made chemicals are also the source of the synthetic methamphetamines causing disorder and death in the United States, Donovan said.

The flood of deadly synthetic drugs may be even more sinister than just an effort to make money at the expense of American lives and social welfare. 

The entire history of China’s opium crisis may be built on a lie — or, at the very least, a dramatic retelling of history for propaganda purposes. 

Opium Wars political cartoon

A political cartoon from the Opium Wars in China in the mid-19th century. Imperial European powers, including Britain and France, were accused of creating widespread addiction by forcing opium into Chinese society. It sparked two conflicts called the Opium Wars in which the Qing Dynasty was easily beaten and led to a 100-year period known in China as the “century of humiliation.” (PictHistory/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Opium was legal in China and had been imported and even grown there for centuries, Australian scholar Harry G. Gelber wrote in a 2006 Harvard University research paper titled “China as ‘Victim’? The Opium War That Wasn’t.”

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The war was fought instead over a variety of other economic disputes, while the treaty ending the First Opium War “did not mention opium,” he wrote.

The Opium War was “a brilliantly snappy name that sneakily prejudges the issue in very simple form: While China had done Britain no harm, the British gratuitously invaded China,” reported Gelber.  

“China only references the Opium War as propaganda to justify post facto this self-interested drug export policy.”

Opium “is a mere incident to the dispute, but no more the cause of the war than the throwing overboard of tea in Boston Harbor was the cause of the North American revolution,” former President John Quincy Adams wrote in 1841 while serving in Congress after his presidency. 

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“China operates on the here and now and what is in its interests; it uses history only for propaganda purposes,” said Hanson to Fox News Digital. 

“It only references the Opium War as propaganda to justify post facto this self-interested drug export policy.”



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