BEIJING – Chinese leaders stunned the world last week with an uncharacteristic disclosure that the country was losing its People's War on Drugs, conceding it had failed to control smuggling or reduce the rampant recreational narcotics use that is dogging the communist republic.
As an American working and residing in Beijing, I am uncomfortably aware of the current drug pandemic coursing through the communities of both Chinese nationals and resident expatriates.
Designer narcotics such as Ecstasy, the "head-shaking drug," are increasingly available at any disco, while karaoke bars have become the opium den of the new millennium for methamphetamines and the popular horse tranquilizer/party drug known as ketamine.
This is not to say illicit drugs are new to the People's Republic. Marijuana grows wild as a weed on the side of any rural Chinese highway, and hashish has long been a favorite with the pipe-smoking old timers.
New-world globalization, however, and an invasion of the "fashionable" as-seen-on-TV western lifestyle into China have tracked in controlled substances like outside dirt.
Some could argue that this was to be expected, as the burgeoning Chinese economy has invited foreign investment into the country with a welcoming Han bow.
Drug trafficking, ever the attractive venture, has further advanced throughout China by way of simple politics, whereby in an effort to increase their global standing, the Communist Party has strayed from their typically isolationist tendencies and self-imposed an urgency to establish and maintain good foreign relations. This, of course, naturally results in a Look-The-Other-Way policy when it comes to upholding certain laws of the eastern land.
Sino-African ties, for example, stress "cooperation" between the two developing countries to increase trade, aid and multilateralism. While some of the support falls under the auspices of the U.N., international news agencies also report backing of oppressive regimes in Africa by China in exchange for resources, markets and other interests.
In turn, the largest continent in the world has granted the second largest what in Mandarin is known as guanxi, that is to say a mutually beneficial relationship. Indeed, Chinese law enforcement agencies, at the suggestion of Party officials, no longer prosecute African nationals residing in the mainland for engaging in otherwise criminal activities- including drug trafficking- handing over the industry to émigrés of their new allies.