Getting Meth in China

Currently traveling in China, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof writes that while authorities are quick to crack down on political speech online, it is not difficult to by , guns or prostitutes via the Internet:

“Our company has delivery stations in every part of China,” boasts one Chinese-language Web site, with photos of illegal narcotics it sells. “We offer 24-hour delivery service to your door, and we have long-term and consistent supplies. If you just make one phone call, we’ll deliver to your hands in one to five hours.”

Another Chinese Web site offers meth wholesale for $19,700 a kilo, or deliveries to your door of smaller quantities in hundreds of cities around China. Even in remote Anhui Province, it delivers drugs in 21 different cities.

All this is completely illegal in China, where narcotics traffickers are routinely executed. But it doesn’t seem to be a top government priority, because these Web sites aren’t even closed down or blocked. Tens of thousands of censors delete references to human rights, but they ignore countless Chinese Web sites peddling drugs, guns or prostitutes.

Doesn’t it seem odd that China blocks Facebook, YouTube and The New York Times but shrugs at, say, guns?

Meanwhile, for Motherboard, Eveline Chao reports on the growing problem of methamphetamine production and use in China. As portrayed by the popular U.S. television show “Breaking Bad,” Mexico is the source of most of the meth in the U.S. But China is increasingly responsible for providing the chemicals that are used in the making of the drug:

Records of large drug busts involving meth in recent years–an increasingly common occurrence–tend to show a trail that leads back to China. Last January, the Mexican navy announced that a single bust had yielded 195 tons of meth chemicals in a Chinese shipment, following a six-week period that netted an additional 900 tons of precursor chemicals. In April, three tons of methylamine chloride, a chemical used in pharmaceuticals and pesticides, was found at LAX in a shipment from China; it was on its way to Mexico, where it was bound to be cooked into $40 million of methamphetamine for American consumers. The list gets longer.

American officials now estimate that 80 percent of the meth consumed in the US is Mexican-made–with ingredients from China. “The rising threat of new synthetic drugs requires a truly international response, and we look forward to extending our cooperative work with China to address the dangers that these substances pose to the citizens of both our countries,” Berit Hallberg, a spokesman for the White House’s drug czar, said in a statement to Stars and Stripes. James Rendon, the Coast Guard Rear Admiral in charge of the DoD’s Joint Interagency Task Force West, described the meth-from-China problem more simply: “It is a big problem, and it is getting bigger.”

In China–where crystal meth is generally called 冰 bing, or ice, and “doing meth” is called 溜冰 liu bing, or “ice skating”–the meth picture is a mirror image of that of the US. Both are large countries pocked with wide-open spaces that are ideal for homemade recipes of the smelly, noxious, explosive stuff. Whether you’re in Indiana or Shanxi, it’s in these rural spaces where meth consumption is most rampant, not least because it’s cheap and offers a lot of bang for your buck–users report a high that, unlike coke, lasts for hours.

Last week, NBC News reported on a drug bust in China which found almost 200 pounds of methamphetamines:

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