Chinese cocaine shipping container Shanghai DEA
Chinese police seized 70kg of cocaine hidden in a shipping container in Shanghai(AFP PHOTO/Peter PARKS)

US and Chinese police forces cooperated to make the single largest drug bust in China's recent history, Beijing said.

Acting on a tip-off by US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) officials, Chinese security forces seized 70kg of cocaine that had been smuggled to Shanghai from South America, the Ministry of Public Security said.

In August, the DEA informed its Chinese counterparts of a suspect shipping container coming from Peru via Mexico.

US officials said that analysis of phone messages and emails of a murdered Mexican drug cartel member suggested the cargo was to transit from Shanghai, where it was to be loaded on another ship bound to New Zealand.

As the ship docked in China's largest city, it was searched Police and customs officials revealing a large quantity of cocaine.

The haul, which according to estimates had a street market value of more than $7m (£4.2m) in China, was the single largest amount seized by local authorities in recent years, state news agency Xinhua reported.

"The ministry said it has in recent years strengthened cooperation with foreign agencies including the DEA, with which it has regular intelligence exchanges, and that the efforts have apparently paid off," the agency wrote.

The case came as Chinese president Xi Jinping has launched a tough crackdown on illegal drug use, which has risen in recent years fuelled by the growing income enjoyed by China's middle-class.

Several celebrities, including the including the son movie star Jackie Chan and actor Kai Ko, have been arrested on drug charges in the last few months.