China's Role in Mexican Drug Cartels - Ed Calderon

China's Role in Mexican Drug Cartels - Ed Calderon

September 14, 2023

China's involvement with Mexican drug cartels and their production of Fentanyl

By John Waters, referencing Ed Calderon's insights from Afterburn Podcast Episode


Unsurprisingly, the intricate web of international affairs has brought China to the United States' southern border.  China has woven a web throughout the Mexican economy.  A key and illicit, facet of this web is  China's involvement with Mexican drug cartels and their production of Fentanyl. In a recent Afterburn Podcast episode, Ed Calderon, a security specialist with firsthand experience in Mexico's anti-narcotics operations, sheds light on this complex issue.

"There was an exchange of information from people in China coming to Mexico and basically showing the locals how to cook."

China's Involvement in the Fentanyl Crisis

Ed Calderon highlights that the surge in the popularity of drugs like fentanyl in Mexico can be traced back to China. With the legalization of marijuana in the U.S., Mexican cartels needed a new lucrative drug, and fentanyl filled that void. However, the production of this drug wasn't initially smooth in Mexico. Only after individuals from China came toMexico, sharing their expertise in manufacturing and packaging, did the production take off. This collaboration boosted the drug trade and had significant economic implications.


According to the  Brookings Institution, Chinese actors have increasingly played a role in laundering money for Mexican cartels, including the main distributors of fentanyl to the United States. The major beneficiaries are the Sinaloa Cartel and Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG). These Chinese money laundering brokers have bypassed the U.S. and Mexican formal banking systems, resorting to methods like trade-based laundering, real estate, cryptocurrencies, casinos, and bulk cash.

"If you ask the Chinese if they're at war with the United States, they'll say, yes."


Ed Calderon standing at U.S. - Mexico border
Ed Calderon

The Drug Trade

The shift from marijuana to fentanyl and other drugs, combined with China's involvement, had a ripple effect on Mexico's economy. The local drug markets in Mexico, already substantial, grew even more with the introduction of these new drugs.

"The slow degradation of your youth through the use of opiates is very much within the confines of the Chinese Communist Party's perception."

The Bigger Picture: Unrestricted Warfare

According to Calderon, if you ask the Chinese if they're at war with the U.S., their answer would be “yes.” The slow degradation of youth through drug addiction aligns with the Chinese Communist Party's perception of unrestricted warfare. This strategy aims at weakening an adversary not through direct conflict but by targeting its societal fabric. The drug trade, fueled byChina's involvement, can be seen as a manifestation of this warfare, further impacting Mexico's economic stability.



The ties between China's involvement in Mexican drug cartel sand Mexico's is evident. As Calderon suggests, understanding these connections is crucial for both the United States and Mexico to address these challenges to combat China’s growing influence in Mexico.  It's a testament to the interconnectedness of global issues and the need for comprehensive solutions.

Listen to the full episode on Apple Podcast | Spotify | Youtube

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