XINGTAI      -     A Chinese court on Thursday imprisoned nine people, one of whom received a suspended death sentence, on charges of smuggling fentanyl into the United States, in the first such case the two countries have worked on together. China has faced US criticism for not doing enough to prevent the flow of fentanyl into the United States, and the issue has become another irritant in bilateral ties, already strained by a bruising trade war the two are now working to end. The joint announcement of the successful action against smugglers, in front of a group of Chinese and foreign reporters invited by the Chinese government, comes as the two countries are expected to be close to signing an interim trade deal. Fentanyl is a highly addictive synthetic opioid, 50 times more potent than heroin. It is often used to make counterfeit narcotics because of its relatively cheap price, and it has played an increasingly central role in an opioid crisis in the United States. Yu Haibin, a senior official with China’s National Narcotics Control Commission, told reporters in the northern city of Xingtai, where the court case was heard, that Chinese and US law enforcement had worked together to break up the ring. Members were accused of smuggling fentanyl and other opioids to the United States via courier.