In 2018, the People’s Republic of China exported more than $500 billion worth of goods to the United States. Top categories included computers and electronics, machinery, clothing, and furniture.

But there’s another burgeoning export from the Middle Kingdom to the United States, one far more deadly than the latest iPhone or some snazzy new deck furniture. For several years, China has been exporting fentanyl to our shores. Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, is, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration, “80-100 times stronger than morphine.”

It’s a terrible substance. “Because of its powerful opioid properties, Fentanyl is also diverted for abuse,” the DEA notes. “Fentanyl is added to heroin to increase its potency, or be disguised as highly potent heroin. Many users believe that they are purchasing heroin and actually don’t know that they are purchasing fentanyl — which often results in overdose deaths.” It’s no exaggeration to say that fentanyl is playing a leading role in the drug epidemic.

Between 2013 and 2017, The Washington Post reported, more than 67,000 Americans died of synthetic-opioid-related overdoses — the vast majority from fentanyl. That is more than the number of Americans killed in the Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined.

According to Gov. Gina Raimondo’s Overdose Prevention and Intervention Task Force, fentanyl use contributed to 75 percent of the overdose deaths in Rhode Island overall from July 2016 to June 2018. There were 199 fentanyl-related deaths in the state in 2016, 205 in 2017 and 224 in 2018. Imagine the human suffering associated with these statistics.

Last year, a congressional commission found that China is the largest source of illegal fentanyl shipments into the United States. Many Chinese companies have made a killing (literally and figuratively) by setting up fentanyl factories and shipping the stuff to the United States — often directly through the U.S. Postal Service.

Last year, as part of their never-ending trade negotiations, President Donald Trump secured a promise from Chinese president Xi Jinping to clamp down on fentanyl. In December, Beijing promised “proactive steps to strengthen cooperation on law enforcement and combating illicit drugs, including the synthetic drug fentanyl,” including listing fentanyl and other “fentanyl-like substances” as controlled substances.

Of course, the Chinese regime is hardly renowned for keeping its promises; witness its behavior in Hong Kong, where it had promised to respect the “one country, two systems” arrangement until 2047, but is in fact quickly eroding the city-state’s hard won freedoms.

Likewise, Beijing has evidently done little to stop shipments of fentanyl, if action from the Treasury Department is any indication. “The Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, or OFAC, is placing sanctions on Fujing Zheng and the Zheng Drug Trafficking Organization along with Guanghua Zheng and Qinsheng Pharmaceutical Co., which support the organization’s activities. It also identified Xiaobing Yan as a ‘significant foreign narcotics trafficker,’” The New York Times reported on Aug. 21. China has done little to stanch the flow of drugs into the United States, so the Treasury Department has stepped up.

The drug epidemic is a complex and tragic phenomenon; economics, social decay, rampant physical pain, and the highly addictive qualities of opioids are all contributing factors. Bringing an end to the epidemic will be a complex and lengthy undertaking. But blocking Chinese fentanyl from entering our shores would be a very good start.