Sam McNeil / AP
China has announced that all variants of fentanyl will be treated as controlled substances after Washington asked Beijing to stop the opioid epidemic in the United States.
Chinese authorities are already regulating 25 variants of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid In the US, there are thousands of drug users overdose. But some manufacturers in China who wish to evade controls have made minor changes to the molecular structure of their drugs, leaving them with the legal manufacturing and export gaps before the government can test the products for safety and medical use ,
The decision to regulate all drugs associated with fentanyl as controlled substances "puts a wider range of substances under regulation," said Liu Yuejin, a National Narcotics Control Commission official, at a press conference at the Monday . The regulation will enter into force on 1 May.
Bryce Pardo, a Rand Corporation drug researcher, explains to NPR that the ordinance theoretically "future-proofs the law" by incorporating impending chemical modifications.  But China may not be able to enforce the new rules, Pardo says. "[Authorities] are already struggling to enforce existing laws." He says official reports show that the country does not have enough facility inspectors, and law enforcement agencies would have to "enforce" one Sample from a facility and finally "analyze if it is a fentanyl structure."
Vanda Felbab-Brown, a senior executive at the Brookings Institution focused on illegal economies, told NPR that regulation was " a good step "but if China" we have the will and capacity It's a big question. "
The United States and China have been negotiating for better drug control since the Obama era. In the midst of the trade war with the Trump administration, "China is looking for an area where it can continue to work with the US," says Felbab-Brown.
The announcement comes after President Xi Jinping praised President Trump at a December meeting to classify Fentanyl as a controlled substance. After the meeting, Trump asked China to demand the death penalty for Fentanyl distributors.
Liu denied on Monday Allegations China is an Important Contribution to the US Opioid Crisis Chinese law enforcement has "solved" several cases of manufacturing and distributing illegal fentanyl medicines. "They are all sent by criminals in different ways through international packages to the US," Liu said. "The amount is extremely limited and can not be the main source of substance in the US."
He said the US opioid problem was mainly due to "domestic causes," according to the South China Morning Post.
In a report from the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission for 2018, China remains "the largest source of illegal fentanyl and fentanyl-like substances" in the United States, and "illegal manufacturers are creating new substances faster than they control  Chemical exporters in China are secretly sending drugs through fake shipping labels and other tactics to the West.
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that relieves extreme pain. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it is 50 to 100 times more effective than morphine. It is also the drug most commonly found in overdose deaths in the United States. According to a report from the National Vital Statistics System, in 2016 Fentanyl had been linked to more than 18,000 overdose deaths.
Felbab-Brown says that China's new attitude towards fentanyl-related substances stems partly from the water's desire to be a global drug enforcer. "From the point of view of public relations, it is difficult for China to be accused of being a source of drugs," she says.
China has no monopoly on fentanyl production, she adds. "Even if the United States did not receive fentanyl from China tomorrow, others would step in. Most obviously India is one of the main sources of addictive substances."
Jingnan Huo contributed to this report.