China announced on Monday that it would treat all variants of the powerful opioid fentanyl as controlled substances, making good on a pledge the country’s leader, President Xi Jinping, made to President Trump late last year.
China’s export of the drug, a family of synthetic opioids blamed for tens of thousands of overdoses in the United States, has long been a source of tension in relations and has, more recently, become tangled up in the continuing trade war.
China already treats more than two dozen variants of fentanyl and its precursors as controlled substances, thus strictly regulating their production and distribution, but it has banned those variants only after reviewing them case by case, a process that can be lengthy.
The latest step would expand restrictions to all “fentanyl-related substances,” effective May 1. That could plug gaps that, experts and American officials have said, allowed manufacturers in China to make novel variations of the drug that were not technically illegal.