President Trump is collaborating with China President Xi Jinping on getting ZTE "back into business," the head of the United States revealed Sunday, a month after the Department of Commerce hit the Shenzhen-based firm with a crippling ban that prevents it from acquiring any kind of American technologies over the next seven years, effectively killing its operations in the process of doing so. While ZTE downplayed deathbed reports and remains adamant its cash reserves and recent damage control moves allow it to ride out the current wave of negativity, it's still unclear how long the company would be able to survive if its main operations remain shut down.
President Trump acknowledged "too many jobs" were already lost in China as a result of the ban, adding that the Department of Commerce has now been instructed to help ZTE resolve the current situation, without elaborating on the matter. The comment gives a lot of weight to Washington's repeated insistence that the ZTE ban isn't directly related to recent tensions between the U.S. and China over trade, a notion that the Chinese firm raised on several occasions in recent weeks. While it's still unclear how President Trump's instruction is meant to help ZTE survive the current episode, the move at the very least signals that the company's recent reprieval request will be granted, i.e. the ban will be lifted until its appeal is formally heard and reviewed.
ZTE pleaded guilty to a conspiracy to violate U.S. trade sanctions imposed on Iran last year, having agreed to an $892 million fine, in addition to vowing to fire four employees and discipline 35 others. The Commerce Department previously said the company failed to discipline its workforce and accused it of repeatedly lying in their correspondence, with ZTE claiming it identified and self-reported all issues that prompted the crippling ban, suggesting it has been transparent in dealing with the matter and hasn't performed any intentional act of defiance against Washington. While the sanction is in place, ZTE is unable to purchase Qualcomm's chips and license a version of the Android operating system with access to the Play Store and Google-made apps, both of which are crucial components of its contemporary smartphones.