The Chinese Heroin Trade

The Chinese Heroin Trade: Cross-Border Drug Trafficking in Southeast Asia and Beyond

Ko-lin Chin
Sheldon X. Zhang
Copyright Date: 2015
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    The Chinese Heroin Trade
    Book Description:

    In a country long associated with the trade in opiates, the Chinese government has for decades applied extreme measures to curtail the spread of illicit drugs, only to find that the problem has worsened. Burma is blamed as the major producer of illicit drugs and conduit for the entry of drugs into China. Which organizations are behind the heroin trade? What problems and prospects of drug control in the so-called "Golden Triangle" drug-trafficking region are faced by Chinese and Southeast Asian authorities?

    InThe Chinese Heroin Trade, noted criminologists Ko-Lin Chin and Sheldon Zhangexamine the social organization of the trafficking of heroin from the Golden Triangle to China and the wholesale and retail distribution of the drug in China. Based on face-to-face interviews with hundreds of incarcerated drug traffickers, street-level drug dealers, users, and authorities, paired with extensive fieldwork in the border areas of Burma and China and several major urban centers in China and Southeast Asia, this volume reveals how the drug trade has evolved in the Golden Triangle since the late 1980s. Chin and Zhang also explore the marked characteristics of heroin traffickers; the relationship between drug use and sales in China; and how China compares to other international drug markets.The Chinese Heroin Tradeis a fascinating, nuanced account of the world of high-risk drug trafficking in a tightly-controlled society.

    eISBN: 978-1-4798-3251-4
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  5. 1 The Chinese Connection
    (pp. 1-23)

    One of the world’s major opium-cultivation and heroin-producing areas is the Golden Triangle, a 150,000-square-mile, mountainous area located where the borders of Burma (or Myanmar),¹ Laos, and Thailand meet.² Although there is a geographical region promoted by the tourism industry as the Golden Triangle where the Mekong River flows through the three countries, when it comes to drug production and trafficking activities, the territory refers to a much larger area, including most border regions between Thailand and Burma and between China and Burma.³

    For decades and up until the late 1990s, the Golden Triangle had a notorious reputation as the...

  6. 2 The Drug Market in Burma
    (pp. 24-57)

    In this chapter we will take a look at the history, development, and patterns of drug production and trafficking in Burma and its border. First, we briefly discuss some of the major political and economic developments in Burma and China over the past two decades and explain how these developments might have affected the drug trade in these two countries, as well as Southeast Asia and other parts of the world. We will then move on to the drug trade in Burma, focusing on the three areas that are the centers of the drug business there: Shan State, Mandalay City,...

  7. 3 Wholesale Heroin Trafficking
    (pp. 58-84)

    The process of moving heroin from the manufacturer’s warehouse in Burma to addicts on the streets of China consists of multiple stages. Overall, these stages fall into four general categories: (1) crossing the border between Burma and China; (2) forwarding to Kunming or other locations in Yunnan Province for transshipment to other parts of China or overseas; (3) transportation to major transshipment hubs in China for further distribution; and (4) further distribution from wholesalers to mid-level dealers, street vendors, and eventually to users.

    In the literature on drug trafficking, there is a tendency to view most cross-border drug trafficking activities...

  8. 4 Low-Level Heroin Trafficking: Ants-Moving-House
    (pp. 85-108)

    The Golden Triangle, infamous for its opium cultivation and heroin production, has gone through significant changes in recent years.¹ Shifts in global opium and heroin supply, the struggle for political legitimacy by regional warlords, and the hostile international sociopolitical environment hastened the decline of large, armed organizations in the trafficking of heroin. Although active players are still buying and processing opium poppies in the region, the business of transporting and distributing heroin and other drugs in the region is increasingly dominated by loosely affiliated entrepreneurs, mostly ethnic Chinese.² Through multiple networks, often tied to one’s close social contacts, these traffickers...

  9. 5 The Social Organization of Entrepreneurial Traffickers
    (pp. 109-134)

    Unlike Latin America, Mexico in particular, where the drug trafficking business is controlled by a few large-scale cartels, the market for heroin and other illicit drugs in China is fragmented and controlled mostly by groups of entrepreneurs. Neither our field interviews nor government officials turned up evidence that any large criminal organizations were in charge of any transportation process. Over the past few decades, there were a few high-profile individual drug traffickers who were apprehended and executed by the Chinese authorities. Although the Chinese government does not release its death penalty statistics, our conversations inside the jails, interviews with anti-narcotic...

  10. 6 The Retail Heroin Market in China
    (pp. 135-172)

    In the late 1980s and early 1990s, drug enforcers in the United States and Europe believed that most of the heroin transported into China was destined for the international market; these days, however, law enforcement can no longer make this claim. Some of the heroin from Burma might be transported overseas via Guangzhou and Hong Kong, but as the heroin market began to expand in the late 1990s, the bulk of the heroin imported into China has remained there to meet domestic demands.¹

    In this chapter, we will discuss how the heroin imported from Burma was retailed in one Chinese...

  11. 7 Women in the Heroin Trade
    (pp. 173-196)

    During our time in the field, we encountered numerous women who were involved in either wholesale drug transportation or street-level dealings. Although we expected female drug addicts to engage in the retail business as a means to support their addiction, we were impressed by their active roles in this illicit enterprise. We do not believe women are playing a dominant role in the drug trade in China, but the high frequency of their appearance in the news stories on official drug seizures and arrests as well as in our field activities requires some explanation and conceptualization on the role of...

  12. 8 Drug Treatment with a Chinese Characteristic
    (pp. 197-219)

    Beginning in the seventeenth century through the early decades of the twentieth century, opium consumption was a considerable social problem in China, which brought disastrous consequences to the nation’s wealth as well as on its population’s health.¹ The fall of the Qing Dynasty was blamed mainly on the opium trade, for which China fought and lost two wars (1839–1842 and 1856–1860) to the British-led foreign powers. The secession of Hong Kong to England, indemnities paid to the victorious countries, and the loss of national pride seared deep scars into the Chinese psyche. All governments since, regardless of political...

  13. 9 Combating Drug Trafficking
    (pp. 220-246)

    In China, the government has a firm hand on every aspect of anti-narcotic activities. Drug enforcement activities are mainly led and coordinated through the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) of the Ministry of Public Security, the equivalent of the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) of the U.S. Department of Justice. However, compared to their counterpart in the United States, which has close to 10,000 in staff and a budget that exceeds $2.2 billion, the Chinese anti-narcotic bureaucracy is small. NCB in Beijing has a staff of 50, divided into seven divisions: (1) narcotics control, (2) propaganda/drug education, (3) intelligence, (4) chemical precursors,...

  14. 10 Conclusion
    (pp. 247-258)

    By all accounts, China has been relentless in its efforts to gain an upper hand with the drug problem, although some of its measures seem draconian by Western standards, such as its extensive use of the death penalty on drug traffickers and compulsory rehabilitation facilities and labor camps for addicts. However, considering the large numbers of seizures and ever-growing official registry of drug addicts, China’s drug problem does not seem to have subsided much. After a few years of progress in the mid-2000s, the Chinese government is now acknowledging that the country has a long way to go in controlling...

  15. NOTES
    (pp. 259-272)
    (pp. 273-288)
  17. INDEX
    (pp. 289-302)
    (pp. 303-303)