Believe it or not, the drug trade is alive and well in mainland China. I guess it isn’t that hard to fathom; think “Opium War” with Britian in the 1800s.
I lived for five years in mainland China–in this very province, in the capital city of Guangzhou (Canton to you unwashed). I had a lot of connections with people from all over the world. In Guangzhou, there is a huge African population (it is currently the largest in all of Asia–20,000 at last count!). Many are exporters, many more are going to school there on China’s dime, and more than 60% are illegal aliens. It’s the old soviet school of “Let us help build your country’s regime by supplying guns and ammo, and we in turn will educate you for free!”.
One time a friend’s big boss was flying into China, or should I say the son of the big boss. He asked me where he could procure some pot for him. I told him “ask the Africans”. He replied “but you know the Africans better than me, you ask, OK? I’ll pay you.”
So off we go into the early afternoon to our favorite expat pub. After about two hours the regulars begin piling in, and among them were two of my good African friends, neither of who sold or even took drugs of any kind. But they did know a guy, who knew a guy, etc.
We agreed to meet later that evening at a club in a tall building across the street. This building is one of the many properties owned by The Peoples Army. The Army in China used to own nearly all the large factories and hotels and businesses in pre and post Mao China. And they still own quite a lot, although that wonderful icon Jiang Jiemin did his best to reduce the army’s financial reach during his last few years in office, with his successor continuing the fight.
So we sit around in a mostly empty night club that had a very attractive Chinese girl of about 20 dancing around the center of the empty dance floor, holding onto a gigantic rope, dressed in nothing but a G-string and a tiny bikini top. Eventually our contact showed up, and he ushered out my African friend to a back door that evidently led out to a patio. He returned later after about five minutes, and only I was invited outside.
The patio stretched the length of the building. There were about ten small cocktail tables with chairs around them, and on every table were Africans, rolling long snakes of hashish and then cutting them into cubes and wrapping them in plastic wrap!
I was led to a table near the back, where a very large (as in fat) African sat with huge dreadlocks, a beard, and the prerequisite yellowed eyes of a heavy smoker. He was in the process of rolling the biggest hash joint I had ever seen outside of a Cheech and Chong movie; it looked like a cuban cigar! The people sitting around the table looked on anxiously as he lit it up. He took a big pull, then handed it to none other than me–the honored guest. I smiled, looked around a moment, and then took my drag. We did this two more times, then it was passed around to the underlings.
We talked a bit, me and “papa”. Then I got down to what I needed, or rather, my friend needed. He said that pot, although available, was prohibitively expensive–the main drugs for sale in China was hash and opium, both controlled he said, by the army. He swept his hand around and said “look! We are sitting here, in the open, cameras could be anywhere, but this building is owned by the army; nobody messes with us, because guess how we get the supply.”
He did however, give me a bag of weed for 1000 RMB (at the time that was about $120 USD) for my friend.
I thanked him profusely and promised to visit again (I didn’t). By then I was high as a proverbial kite (I am what you call a very casual drug user–I have never gotten high more than perhaps three-four times in a year) and went back in and gave the pot to my friend. We finished our drinks and went back to our watering hole across the street.
To this day, the army still controls the drugs, the Africans in Guangdong province sell it, and everyone is happy.
Once and awhile you will read about a drug bust ( a few years ago there was a big story about a foreigner and his Chinese girlfriend who were selling drugs and got executed) but it’s all for show. I am sure this meth thing was something going on without the army’s permission or involvement, so it went away.
If anyone doubts me, just go to Guangzhou, ask around at the expat bars and eventually you will meet the right African.
Read more on the African issue in Guangzhou: