Outgoing ZTE executive Zhang Zhenhui sent a farewell letter to the Chinese company's employees on Friday, several days after being ordered to resign following the firm's settlement with the United States commerce department over a broken agreement from 2017. The soon-to-be-former Vice President of Sales and Marketing reminisced about his 18 years at the company, calling his eventual exit "deeply humiliating" due to the fact that he played no role in the firm's violations of U.S. trade sanctions imposed on North Korea and Iran, nor was he responsible for its failure to comply with the terms of a 2017 settlement which prompted the Commerce Department to block its sales channels in the country, cutting it off from crucial American technologies including Google's Android OS and Qualcomm's Snapdragon silicon.
Mr. Zhang also praised ZTE's domestic and global rival Huawei over its efforts to remain relevant in the U.S. despite constant challenges, having said he hopes the world's largest telecom equipment maker will "straighten up its spine and face inevitable challenges in the future," without elaborating on the matter. ZTE's troubles were poorly timed, having emerged at a time when Washington and Beijing engaged in a full-blown trade war, ultimately prompting stateside regulators to insist on extremely strict penalties for the firm's transgressions, though even what the company's former chief deems is "a disastrous price" is preferred to the alternative – a seven-year denial order that would effectively lead it to bankruptcy in a matter of months.
ZTE has now ejected the entirety of its board and management, regardless of their roles, replaced them, paid a $1 billion fine, and vowed to hire an independent compliance officer who will indefinitely report to Washington, in addition to making another $400 million eschew payment. Some of the company's stateside operations have been restarted as a result of its efforts to comply with the new settlement in a swift manner but U.S. lawmakers are presently pushing against the lifeline deal and even if they're unsuccessful in doing so, ZTE's business is still likely to take years to fully recover from the ordeal, many industry watchers believe.