President Trump ’s abrupt decision to offer a potential lifeline to Chinese phone-maker ZTE is sending shockwaves through Washington, sparking criticism from lawmakers who…
President Trump ’s abrupt decision to offer a potential lifeline to Chinese phone-maker ZTE is sending shockwaves through Washington, sparking criticism from lawmakers who have pushed for tighter restrictions on Chinese telecommunications companies.
Trump stunned Republicans and Democrats on Sunday when he tweeted that he had ordered federal officials to get Chinese phone-maker ZTE “back into business, fast” after the company shuttered its operations due to U. S. penalties.
“Too many jobs in China lost,” Trump wrote.
The sentiment was a far cry from the hard line the president has drawn on China since the start of his administration, with his officials accusing Beijing of unfair trade practices and intellectual property theft.
Republicans on Capitol Hill, who had been pressing for further restrictions on Chinese telecommunications companies in the U. S. market, pushed the administration to hold the line it had previously taken against ZTE.
“Problem with ZTE isn’t jobs & trade, it’s national security & espionage,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) tweeted on Monday. “We are crazy to allow them to operate in U. S. without tighter restrictions.”
“One of the few areas where the president and I agreed, and I was vocally supportive, was his approach towards China,” Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a statement. “But even here he is backing off, and his policy is now designed to achieve one goal: make China great again.”
Trump’s stated desire to help ZTE comes less than a month after his Commerce Department barred American firms from selling components to the Chinese phone-maker. The administration said ZTE violated sanctions on Iran by selling equipment to the country.
ZTE is fighting the ban, which, if it stands, promises to cripple the company’s operations. The company has already halted its production in reaction to the penalties.
The Chinese company has called Commerce’s punishment excessive and unfair, saying that it ignores its continued efforts at sanction compliance and the punishment that it has doled out to employees involved in the sanctions violations. ZTE has also maintained that it operates in accordance with U. S. law in reaction to charges that it works with the Chinese government to spy on Americans.
With his tweet, Trump signaled that his administration is willing to ease the ban if it receives concessions from China in trade talks. Chinese officials are expected to descend on Washington later this week for more negotiations.

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