Could Trump be the ZTE saviour?

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Chinese President Xi Jinping has been said to be considering reprisals for the actions taken against both Huawei and ZTE, but until now there'd been no public confirmation of such. "Commerce Department has been instructed to get it done!" the president said Sunday morning.

While it's not surprising that Trump would announce his support for such a move on Twitter, the fact that he's so forcefully supporting ZTE in the first place raises eyebrows for a number of reasons.

More recently, the U.S. Commerce Department issued an export ban that keeps U.S. firms from selling to it. ZTE is trying to get it reversed, and just last week they halted major operating activities.

ZTE pleaded guilty past year to conspiring to violate USA sanctions by illegally shipping U.S. goods and technology to Iran and entered into an agreement with the United States government. American companies are said to supply 25% to 30% of components used by ZTE, which makes smartphones and gear for telecom networks. Unlike many other Chinese smartphone makers, ZTE's Android phones are also popular in the U.S, thanks to low-priced phones and savvy marketing ploys (the company's sponsored five National Basketball Association teams, including the Golden State Warriors). The President now seemingly has the upper hand at the negotiating table with the Chinese government; the United States can now effectively decide the future of the business.

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At the Beijing talks, the Trump administration handed China a list of hard-line demands that trade experts said could make it even more hard to resolve the trade disputes. Trump has proposed tariffs on as much as $60 billion in Chinese goods, and Beijing has responded in kind, prompting only continued threats from the president, who lamented the trade deficit between the two countries during the 2016 presidential campaign. "But be cool, it will all work out!"

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross last month accused ZTE of misleading the Department of Commerce and warned, "This egregious behavior can not be ignored".

In April, he said: "For many years, no president wanted to go against China economically, and we're going to do it". Trump said in his tweet that he told the Commerce Department to help ZTE.

It also marks the second time in the last month the Trump administration has moved to roll back sanctions against a foreign company that had almost been pushed into insolvency, raising questions over how thoroughly the White House is co-ordinating sanctions policy with federal agencies.

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The ban came two months after two Republican senators introduced legislation to block the United States government from buying or leasing telecommunications equipment from ZTE or Huawei, citing concern the companies would use their access to spy on USA officials.

Trump's announcement drew sharp criticism from a Democratic lawmaker, who said the move was jeopardizing US national security.

"Our intelligence agencies have warned that ZTE technology and phones pose a major cyber security threat", he said. "You should care more about our national security than Chinese jobs", Schiff said in a tweet directed at Trump. "ZTE made false statements to the U.S. Government when they were originally caught and put on the Entity List, made false statements during the reprieve it was given, and made false statements again during its probation".

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