President Donald Trump announced plans Sunday to pursue a reversal on trade policy with a key Chinese smartphone company that would cancel a move made just last month by his own Commerce Department.
“President Xi of China, and I, are working together to give massive Chinese phone company, ZTE, a way to get back into business, fast. Too many jobs in China lost,” Trump tweeted. “Commerce Department has been instructed to get it done!”
In April, the Commerce Department blocked U.S. companies from selling parts and providing services to ZTE until 2025 over allegations that the Chinese firm violated sanctions on North Korea and Iran, CNN reported. Last Wednesday, The New York Times reported that ZTE halted manufacturing as a result. “The first casualty of the high-tech cold war between the United States and China might be the biggest electronics maker you’ve never heard of,” the Times reported.
ZTE has about 75,000 employees and is the fourth biggest smartphone vendor in the U.S., behind LG, Samsung, and Apple.
The Times added:
The United States has for years deemed ZTE and Huawei, its much larger rival in network gear, to be national security threats. Large American mobile carriers already shun the companies’ telecom equipment. The White House is mulling an executive order that would make it harder for government agencies to buy from them.
It’s worth emphasizing that this was written just four days ago. Needless to say, Trump’s statement has caused some confusion and prompted gathering criticism on social media.
“The mission of the United States Department of Commerce is to use American tax dollars to send jobs to China? You are full of surprises,” former director of the Office of Government Ethics Walter Shaub tweeted.
“They warned me if I didn’t vote for Donald Trump we’d have a president who would put Chinese phone companies and Chinese jobs first,” added Weekly Standard editor–at–large Bill Kristol.
“Presumably this is some gambit as part of the North Korea negotiations but US intelligence chiefs warned that ZTE was likely trying to spy on American citizens—and it’s truly mind bending seeing Trump advocate a China First foreign policy to boost jobs in China,” tweeted Washington Post columnist Brian Klaas.
Others were more succinct: “Make China Great Again!”
Update, Sunday, 3:33 p.m.: Whoever has Donald Trump’s phone tweeted a grammatically acceptable update stating, “China and the United States are working well together on trade, but past negotiations have been so one sided in favor of China, for so many years, that it is hard for them to make a deal that benefits both countries. But be cool, it will all work out!”
Ok, dude. #MCGA!