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Trump officially resurrects ZTE

Illustration of ZTE letters crinkled
Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

China's ZTE is alive, escaping what once looked like a death sentence for repeatedly violating U.S. sanctions and being seen as a threat to national security.

The details: The deal requires a $1 billion fine for ZTE, plus $400 million in escrow to cover any future violations. ZTE will also have to "retain a team of special compliance coordinators" who answer to the U.S., and change its top leadership.

The big picture: Trump's broad tariffs against Chinese goods concern Beijing, but the Commerce Department going after ZTE — a state-owned enterprise in a strategic sector — hit a sore spot for the Communist Party.

  • P.S. "[ZTE's] fate has gotten caught up in a bigger web, including an upcoming summit between President Trump and North Korea’s leader and the success of an American telecom company, Qualcomm, which sells a large amount of semiconductors to ZTE and is awaiting Chinese approval of a deal to acquire a Dutch telecom firm that will help it build the next generation of wireless technology, known as 5G." [N.Y. Times]

Why it matters: China's successful negotiation to save the company could embolden it to try the same for Huawei.

  • Huawei has been banned from military bases due to national security concerns about espionage. It's back in the headlines this week after it was revealed Huawei accessed Americans' data via Facebook. [Go deeper on Huawei]

What they're saying:

  • Marco Rubio: "I assure you with 100% confidence that #ZTE is a much greater national security threat than steel from Argentina or Europe."
  • Chuck Schumer: "@realDonaldTrump should be aiming his trade fire at China, but instead he inexplicably aims it at allies like Canada, Mexico and Europe."
  • Sen. John Kennedy: "I’m sure ZTE makes a fine cell phone, but they’re a little too close to the Communist Party of China for my tastes."
  • Go deeper: The bipartisan blowback

What's next: A bipartisan hoard of senators have introduced legislationto reverse the ZTE deal.

Be smart: China has the leverage to take on the U.S., and it's smart enough to use it when it matters — as was the case with ZTE.

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