In a White House business session, United States President Donald Trump answered an inquiry regarding efforts to stop the illegal importation of Fentanyl, a dangerous synthetic drug, from China. Citing a 2018 agreement which categorized Fentanyl as a controlled substance in China, Trump referred to China’s use of capitol punishment as a favor to the United States before going on to praise China and other authoritarian states that execute drug dealers for their expediency.
“Criminal in China for drugs, by the way, means that’s serious,” stated Trump, “They’re getting a maximum penalty. And you know what the maximum penalty is in China for that. And it goes very quickly.”
Trump went on to say that “States with a very powerful death penalty on drug dealers, they have very little drug problem,” before shrugging and asserting that he does not “know that our country is ready ready for that. But, if you look throughout the world, the countries with a powerful death penalty, death penalty, with a fair but quick trial, they have very little if any drug problem. That includes China.”
This is not the first time that President Trump has praised China’s social policies on illicit substances, nor the first time that he has (incorrectly) concluded that China’s efforts have done much to decrease the influence of drugs in Chinese society. China’s Communist Party is known to conceal incriminating information about the state of China as a country, and the narrative about China having very little drug problem is not even the official story. The Chinese government has, in recent years, admitted to ketamine, methamphetamine, and other illegal substances contributing to a growing problem for the state.
While China has focused on eliminating illegal heroin use, the use of synthetic drugs has increased. In 2017, China’s National Narcotics Control Commission was willing to admit to a 6.8% increase in overall illegal drug usage year on year.
Nearly a year ago to the day, Donald Trump admonished contemporary American drug policy for not being tough enough on substance dealers. “Their criminal list, a drug dealer gets a thing called the death penalty,” he stated, in reference to China. “Our criminal list a drug dealer gets a thing called: How about a fine?”
The United States is currently spending nearly $50 billion per year in the “War on Drugs,” a colloquial term referring to official drug policy enforcement that is widely regarded as a failure. This is often contrasted with countries such as Portugal which have decriminalized drugs entirely with remarkably positive results and a steep decline in drug-related incidents.
Experts have agreed overwhelmingly in recent years that the death penalty does not actually deter crime, leaving Donald Trump’s frequently touted opinion on the subject antiquated and in opposition to known fact.
China’s Community Party, typically in the interest of preserving social stability, has long employed the death penalty very liberally. As recently as 2015, counterfeiting currency and organizing prostitution were still on the capital crimes list, though reforms have sought to soften the criminal code. China, as of 2014, was still topping the charts at the most death penalties issued per year.
While the United States continues to bill itself as the “land of the free,” it also maintains the highest incarceration rate in the developed world. Introducing new capital crimes in an attempt at resolving observed drug problems is an expensive recommendation that also comes at a high price to civil and rights and liberties. Though Americans overwhelmingly oppose the death penalty for drug dealers, even in the case of overdoses, the Trump administration’s fast and loose usage of executive orders to criminalize certain activities is indeed a cause of concern.
At the moment, we can rest assured that no serious talk seems to exist of pursuing such action.
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