By: Philip Lenczycki, Daily Caller News Foundation
Accounts claiming to represent Chinese drug manufacturers are using provocative images of women to advertise narcotics and fentanyl precursors on U.S. social media, according to a Daily Caller News Foundation review of hundreds of English and Chinese-language social media posts.
The DCNF identified several dozen LinkedIn accounts claiming to be saleswomen representing China-based manufacturers primarily located near Beijing or Wuhan. The accounts often featured images of women and teenage girls in advertisements for a wide variety of controlled substances including 4-piperidone, which is used to manufacture fentanyl.
Many of the posts included suggestive language like “hot sale” to advertise the chemicals, as well as contact information on encrypted messaging apps and Chinese phone numbers. The companies these accounts claimed to represent included six of the Chinese chemical manufacturers indicted by the Department of Justice (DOJ) in June and October for crimes related to trafficking fentanyl precursors and other substances.
It’s not clear if the LinkedIn accounts identified by the DCNF have any official relationship with the Chinese drug manufacturers they claim to represent. Neither the accounts nor the Chinese manufacturers responded to the DCNF’s request for comment.
After the DCNF reached out to LinkedIn for comment, the social media platform immediately removed the accounts that had been flagged.
“Whenever we see posts, ads or accounts that don’t meet our policies, we remove them, as we did in this case,” a LinkedIn spokesperson told the DCNF by email.
Approximately 50 times more potent than heroin, fentanyl is a synthetic opioid, which is a drug class that was involved in almost 70 percent of the approximately 110,000 U.S. overdose deaths in 2022, according to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).
China is the “primary source of fentanyl and fentanyl-related substances trafficked through international mail” as well as the “main source for all fentanyl-related substances” trafficked into the U.S., according to the DEA.
“Chinese drug traffickers are successfully taking advantage of deliberate American policy weakness on both fronts [physical and virtual] with regard to fentanyl precursors and the products they become in the U.S.,” Steve Yates, America First Policy Institute senior fellow and China Policy Initiative chair, told the DCNF. “It is the single most significant foreign attack on the American family in history, with my family standing among the hundreds of thousands of other families who have suffered unspeakable injury and loss as a direct result.”
“I lost my daughter in October after she ingested a fentanyl-laced street version of Xanax,” Yates told the DCNF.
Many of the LinkedIn advertisements featured numeric identifiers for the chemicals on offer, known as Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS) registration numbers. For instance, the National Institutes of Health identifies “23076-35-9” as the CAS number for xylazine hydrochloride, whose active ingredient, xylazine, is illicitly used to cut fentanyl, according to the White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy.
Xylazine also happened to be among the most frequently advertised products by the LinkedIn accounts reviewed by the DCNF.
In one such instance, a LinkedIn account for a saleswoman claiming to represent Hebei Ningnan Trade Co., Ltd. advertised 1019.5 grams of xylazine hydrochloride in an April 2023 post featuring an image of a bag of white powder on a scale.
“New date with strong effect,” the caption read.
In April 2023, the Biden administration designated fentanyl combined with xylazine as an emerging threat to the U.S. “because xylazine combined with fentanyl is being sold illicitly and is associated with significant and rapidly worsening negative health consequences, including fatal overdoses and severe morbidity.”
“Xylazine and fentanyl drug mixtures place users at a higher risk of suffering a fatal drug poisoning,” according to a 2022 DEA report. “Because xylazine is not an opioid, naloxone (Narcan) does not reverse its effects.”
“People who inject drug mixtures containing xylazine also can develop severe wounds, including necrosis — the rotting of human tissue — that may lead to amputation,” the DEA report stated.
The LinkedIn accounts reviewed by the DCNF also advertised a range of controlled substances, including those from the Schedule I category — such as the synthetic opioid, protonitazene, and the synthetic cathinone, eutylone. Schedule I substances have a “high potential for abuse” and “no currently accepted medical use in treatment,” according to the DEA.
In March 2023, a LinkedIn account for a saleswoman claiming to represent Henan Ruijiu Biotechnology Co., Ltd. advertised “eutylone” in a post featuring substances of several colors.
In 2020, eutylone was involved in at least 343 overdose deaths in the U.S., many of which co-involved “illicitly manufactured fentanyls,” cocaine or methamphetamines, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In addition to Schedule I substances, the LinkedIn accounts that the DCNF reviewed also advertised various chemicals used to manufacture controlled substances, like PMK.
In April 2023, a LinkedIn account for a saleswoman claiming to represent Wuhan Xiju Biotechnology Co., Ltd. posted a video advertisement for a brown liquid that the clip identified as “PMK oil,” which is “important to the manufacture of the Schedule I controlled substance 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) and other ‘ecstasy’-type substances,” according to the Federal Register.
An image of a teenage girl sticking out her tongue and the company logo of Wuhan Xiju Biotechnology were superimposed over the video advertisement, which was set to electronic dance music.
The DCNF also identified accounts purportedly representing several of the Chinese chemical manufacturers on various other U.S. social media platforms.
For example, Facebook accounts purportedly representing Wuhan Mulei New Material Technology Co., Ltd. and Wuhan Kairunte New Material Co., Ltd. advertised xylazine and other substances.
Likewise, a YouTube account purportedly representing Hubei Amarvel Biotech Co., Ltd. advertised controlled substances like PMK. One ad stated that the company offered “customized packages” for its products including dog food bags, tubs of nuts and other “creative designs.”
A Meta spokesperson told the DCNF by email that the social media platform had reviewed the accounts that the DCNF had flagged and “removed them for violating our policies.”
A YouTube spokesperson also told the DCNF by email that they’d “terminated” the accounts the DCNF had flagged, citing various platform policy violations including “marketing the sale of regulated pharmaceuticals without a prescription.”
“Channels that repeatedly violate our policies are subject to termination, which is what happened in this case,” the YouTube spokesperson said.
‘A Weapon of Mass Destruction’
In November 2023, President Joe Biden met with General Secretary Xi Jinping in San Francisco, during which the White House announced “the resumption of bilateral cooperation on counternarcotics, with a focus on reducing the flow of precursor chemicals fueling illicit fentanyl and synthetic drug trafficking.”
“The PRC is now taking law enforcement action against illicit precursor suppliers, has issued a notice to industry warning Chinese companies against illicit trade in precursor chemicals and pill presses equipment and has committed to restart key law enforcement cooperation,” the White House stated at the time.
Fentanyl and its precursors that originate in China follow a number of routes to enter the U.S., according to a 2020 DEA report.
The substances are sometimes shipped from China-based manufacturers through mail services to Canada or Mexico, whereupon they’re processed and frequently mixed with heroin, before entering the U.S. drug market, the 2020 DEA report states. Other times, Chinese fentanyl and its precursors are simply sent by mail directly to the U.S.
Mexican drug cartels also take advantage of lax U.S. border security by using migrant volunteers “to smuggle drugs to reduce their debt from the tax required to move through their territory,” according to a 2023 America First Policy Institute research report.
Many clandestine laboratories in the U.S. are closely tied to Mexican drug cartels, Ammon Blair, Texas Public Policy Foundation senior fellow and former Border Patrol agent, told the DCNF.
“There are some organizations in the U.S. that are capable of synthesizing fentanyl and opioids independently of the Mexican cartels, but they may be limited by regional market conditions and law enforcement efforts,” Blair said. “However, the exact number and size of such organizations are not clear.”
In 2022, law enforcement “reportedly found chemicals or other items, indicating the presence of either clandestine drug laboratories or dumpsites” at over 130 locations in the U.S., according to a national clandestine laboratory registry maintained by the DEA.
Yates told the DCNF that the U.S. government must secure our “physical and cyber borders,” disrupt the illicit chemical supply chains and launch “comprehensive political and economic warfare against all responsible governments and entities.”
“We have done no less against the threat of terrorism,” Yates said. “This is a weapon of mass destruction detonated on American families.”
DOJ and DEA did not respond to multiple requests for comment.