GoKunming Articles

A look at Yunnan's evolving anti-drug strategy

By in News on

China's Yunnan province sits nestled in the country's southwest, snug up against Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar. By dent of geography alone, it has long been a natural entrepôt for drugs emanating from the Golden Triangle. For the past two decades, Yunnan relied on two major strategies to combat the incoming traffic in opium-based narcotics — law enforcement and crop replacement projects in agricultural regions outside its borders. More recently, treatment has come to play an increasing role.

A November 2 article by news service Xinhua reports more than 100,000 drug traffickers have been arrested in Yunnan over the past four years. Seizures associated with these busts totaled 107 tons of assorted narcotics, the vast majority — roughly 85 percent — heroin or methamphetamines.

And while interdiction agents are obviously very busy, so too is the provincial Bureau of Commerce, albeit quietly. Since 2005, the bureau has organized and supported dozens of large- and small-scale poppy-replacement programs in both Laos and Myanmar, where the majority of the Golden Triangle's illicit opium is grown.

Investment surpassed one billion yuan (US$151 million) in 2012 — typically in rubber plantations — and has continued to grow over time. Today, hundreds of Chinese companies are involved in the effort. Replanting work now covers several hundred thousand hectares and involves growing not only rubber but also cassava, coffee, bananas and other cash crops. However, Chinese authorities are quick to admit the program has been far more successful in Laos than in Myanmar.

However, provincial officials are not satisfied with the combined results of interdiction and crop replacement. Yunnan continues to maintain the dubious distinctions of highest per capita drug use and rate of HIV/AIDS infection in China. And so the province has turned to treatment as a third alternative over the past few years.

According to government statistics, there are now 1,300 detoxification clinics scattered across the province, up from virtually none 15 years ago. Criminal sentencing standards have also been shifted away from simple incarceration and now focus more on counseling and treatment for non-violent offenders. These methods have proved successful enough — credited with getting an estimated 60,000 addicts clean since 2012 — that they have been adopted in other parts of China.

It appears progress in Yunnan is being made despite the better efforts of drug traffickers and the presence of the province's mountainous and porous borders. But demands from Beijing are high, as heroin use in other regions of China are on the rise and Yunnan remains the main entry point for the drug. There is also always the specter of the cheap and readily available meth that is used rampantly across Southeast Asia. Yunnan has upped its game significantly regarding illegal drug use, but it appears there is still much work to do.

Image: Amazon

© Copyright 2005-2023 GoKunming.com all rights reserved. This material may not be republished, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

Share this article


The original article talks about the last five years not four. Still quite a lot.

Gloss this over as much as you want but marijuana for recreational use is on the rise and there's tonnes of it with higher strengths than previously. That together with all the artificial highs.

It's on the rise and being legalised in certain countries because some people are starting to see it's not quite deserving of the label it got back in the day! Obviously not all people as your tone seems instantly against it's use ;o) It's something that shouldn't be compared to the likes of opium based narcotics and doesn't lead to things like HIV/AIDS infections so shouldn't be in the same discussion.

@redjon: right - putting it in the same discussion is not only inaccurate, it's downright dangerous, especially for kids who don't know & who are tempted to experiment.

I'm skeptical about your comments considering that drug use is on the rise and as history has shown, the more people using weed there are the higher the demand for harder drugs.
Replanting will only increase price (which in turn leads to more crime) so is not the issue here, it's the demand which will always be met when there is money to be made and exploitation is rife.

Falling down the stairs is less dangerous than falling off a cliff. I would prefer neither fall.

What's dangerous is saying that some drugs are better than others, when no drugs are better than all drugs.

The only people who would push this line of thought would be drug dealers.

@napoleon some might say choose the cliff ;o)

Drugs come in all guises, I know the drugs I take for my personal issue are very welcome, so some drugs are definitely better than others.

The point is that using the term 'drugs' for anything that happens to be illegal is dangerous. Weed is closer to beer than it is to heroin.
Somebody define 'drugs', clearly. Should we outlaw tea?

Cant say I remember reading anything about an old lady's handbag being snatched to fund a tea habit.

Nobody snatches handbags to buy weed either.

War on drugs has always failed and will always fail.
Humans are crazy about getting high, for whatever reasons.

It's just about choosing your drug.

Sport, coffee, tea, alcohol, chocolate, tobacco, sex, talking crap in forums and chat lines, there is nothing people can't get addicted to.

And people will always get high if they want to.

So decriminalizing, prevention, education is the way to go.
State controlled outlets for drugs, addicts get free and clean needles, and check ups for typical drug fiend diseases.

Holland has worked fine, and so are Canada, and most of the states in the US, as far as you can say over the short period of time.

The judicial system get's relieved over something it cannot stop anyway.
Taking care of the hard drug users and addicts, and education and prevention from the taxes on legal drugs, and you have a good chance to succeed.

China is playing USA in the 1980's, a few crop incentives won't help, while people are being thrown in jail over smoking a bit of pot, or taking XTC. But hopefully they will see the stupidity of it.

It's incorrect weed or soft drugs don't lead to addiction or demand for harder drugs.
It's an individual problem, some people take heroin, once and never feel like taking drugs again. Some drink a few drinks and soon are hitting it hard.

There is no rule or solution for personal addiction.

@dudeson: weed leads to addiction - I think not, though it may become habitual, but that is not the same thing. As for leading to hard drugs, alcohol - which, in fact, IS a harder drug - might also, but if weed statistically does so more often it's because both weed and certain harder drugs are all thrown into the same category: illegal. Then you have the naive kid told not to do 'drugs', one day he sneaks & does weed, no problems; his next experiment may well be with hard drugs.

That's why, above, I say the way 'drugs' are categorized - miscategorized, actually - is dangerous.
I think we agree, maybe I've just read you wrong.

@Alien people do snatch handbags to get weed. This may even include a bit of acid spray in the face these days.

@Dudeson the fact that weed 'can' lead to harder drug use means that more people will be turned onto harder drugs if there is more weed around. Everyone is biologically different and many will unfortunately get addicted to weed instantly and seek new highs. Some may even smoke weed and quit drinking so it's not the chemistry of individuals we should be discussing, it's the demand issue. With an increase in illegal highs whether it be grass or croccodile, you get an increase in drug pushers dealing in illegal substances which can be obtained and imported from anywhere no matter the cost in finance or human life when there are people as desperate for cash as they are for that next hit of choice / necessity.

What you are talking about vicar, and alien are so called gateway drugs.

Most gateway drugs must have a strong physical addiction potential, or because they are extremely easy to get. And most important it depends on when you are starting with substances which could lead to addiction.
And then number one gateway drug[s] are alcohol and tobacco.

As most kids experiment with these two early on, then the way is paved.

Weed comes in [usually] at a later age, at which you should have already physically and psychologically learned, how to say no.

Otherwise, how is it that states with open cannabis laws, have a lower addiction rate for harder drugs?

In my opinion alcohol and nicotine are the worst of all drugs and gateway drugs.

If you are talking crime, then legalizing the ones that do less harm than the legal drugs, is a necessary step.

Tax alcohol 300%, tobacco 800% and state grown cannabis, peyote, mushrooms at Value Added Tax and 300% if it's blended in with tobacco. And you will see, less barfights, domestic violence, rape, murder, drug sales, vs. increases in consumption of cartoons and animations, boosting the snacks industry, music awareness, camping, et cetera. Lol

Alcohol is a nerve toxin. THC isn't.

In general people wanna get high, always get high.

Is there any person ever getting robbed for weed? The purse snatching story is more in the line of alcohol, meth or crack.

The best way is to stay away form any substances that alter your state of mind, ...if you can.

@vicar: Where is it that people snatch handbags to get weed? And who told you that it is addictive?
I like to drink, but it's probably healthier to smoke weed than to drink, at least to drink to excess.

@vicar: And any fool who smokes both tobacco and weed knows clearly that it's nicotine that is the really addictive drug.

Plus cigarette smoking is a lot more likely to give you lung cancer than marijuana smoking does - marijuana smoking can give you bronchial irritations, tho, if you over do it.

I'll go back to my initial point as we keep getting side tracked on addictions which as mentioned by others and myself, is all down to individuals. We get that. Cigarettes alcohol are legal so there's no need to bring these into discussion either.

Poppy replacement programs will do little to reduce illegal drug use and only increase price and crime. Alongside this you have an increase in weed use with a rising demand for stronger weed. With this you get a growing illegal drug industry. It's not all about the addictions, it's also about the supply and availability. I needn't explain how often it is that weed suppliers move onto pushing harder drugs because the supply chains are conveniently in place and profits can be multiplied tenfold.

@Alien You can do without the bronchial irritations through utilizing cookies, cakes, smoothies, chocolate etc...probably not so good with tobacco though.

Right - so you're saying at least some of these drugs should be made legal, like alcohol and tobacco are? If so I've been partially misunderstanding you.

And we have been getting off the point, as the article doesnn't mention marijuana.

Did I say Marijuana should be made legal?

No, unsurprisingly, the article doesn't address the increase in Marijuana strengths and usage. I included it as I believe it should be considered in any anti drug scheme, simply because it is currently illegal and entwined within the industry the government is trying to quash.

Don't quite understand - do you want the state to make/keep some, or all, of these drugs illegal? If so, note how legalization of alcohol in the US, after 10 years of prohibition, drove gangsters out of the illegal booze industry. Seems to me legalization of pot in some US states is likely to do the same with the illegal marijuana industry. What would happen to the gangsters' profits in dealing other (now illegal) drugs if they were made legal?
I'm not advocating anything concerning the drugs in the article, just asking your opinion.


Once in a guesthouse many people were smoking weed, I could smell it. Is it still similar now when traveling to Kunming / Dali ?


Note that the article seems to indicate that anti-illegal-drug efforts are most concerned with transportation, production & use of amphetamines and heroin. I've heard little about anti-marijuana efforts, but that doesn't mean they don't exist.

What has probably changed in last few years, is that local authorities are increasingly offering cash rewards to citizens who report any kind of suspicious activities by foreigners - be it drugs, prostitution, or spying.

They are?

Login to comment