China's War on Drugs: Antidrug Policies and Regional Integration in Northern Laos and Myanmar


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When: Aug 21 2013 - 10:30am until Aug 21 2013 - 12:00pm
Where: 1819 L St, NW, Washington, DC. Sixth Floor Conference Room

China's War on Drugs: Antidrug Policies and Regional Integration in Northern Laos and Myanmar

An Asia-Pacific Security Seminar featuring:

Dr. Xiaobo Su

Visiting Fellow, East-West Center in Washington
Assistant Professor, Department of Geography, University of Oregon

2013 Asian Studies Visiting Fellow Xiaobo Su gives his presentation on China's antidrug policies in Southeast Asia as an alternative form to regional integration at the East-West Center in Washington.

In the heart of Asia lies the Golden Triangle, the notorious illicit opium-producing area situated in the overlap between Myanmar, Laos, and Thailand. Located downstream of the Mekong River, the area is endowed with an ideal climate for opium poppy cultivation. Drug trafficking from the Golden Triangle to China through Yunnan has become a serious challenge to social stability and economic development along the cross-border regions between China and mainland Southeast Asia. In order to handle this non-traditional security challenge and provide a drug-free and socially stable environment for China in general and Yunnan province in particular, the Chinese state activated its war on drugs, with Yunnan as the major frontline.

In his seminar, Dr. Xiaobo Su presented some of his ongoing research on this topic. He explored the two interrelated components of China's antidrug policies (coercive crackdown and opium substitution program) while examining the effectiveness of these efforts in reducing opium cultivation and cross-border drug trafficking. He then discussed how China's antidrug policies shape foreign relations between China and mainland Southeast Asia and promote regional integration between China's Yunnan province and northern Laos and Myanmar.

While the primary goal of China's antidrug policy may be to rid the social ill of drug abuse and stem the flow of opiates from one of the world's largest drug producing regions, it has had knock-on effects in transnational collaboration on economic integration. For example, when armed Chinese police boats began participating in joint patrols of the Mekong River between China, Thailand, Myanmar, and Laos in 2011, this was the first time Chinese forces have gone "abroad" for a non-UN mission in twenty years. Dr. Su also explained that the opium substitution programs intended to help farmers substitute poppy cultivation with an alternative cash crop promotes economic integration by essentially providing subsidies and tax incentives for Chinese agribusiness to invest in Southeast Asia and develop raw material supply chains that in-turn feed Chinese industry.

Dr. Su concluded that the ultimate success of these policies in terms of halting the drug trade remain to be seen as they run up against the true challenges of long, porous, wilderness borders, and the high market value of opiates. However in terms of more closely integrating some of the poorest regions in Asia with China, the effects are already visible.

Dr. Xiaobo Su is an Asian Studies Visiting Fellow in the East-West Center in Washington and assistant professor in Department of Geography, University of Oregon. His research interests include drug-related non-traditional security, transnational agribusiness, and regional integration in the Greater Mekong Subregion. His research has received support from the Social Science Research Council. Dr. Su received his PhD from National University of Singapore, his MS at Sun Yat-sen University and BA from Southeast University, both in China.

Primary Contact Info:
Name: Grace Ruch
Phone: 202-327-9762