Chinese technology giant ZTE hired former Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman as an independent consultant meant to conduct an unbiased review of its products and services with the goal of determining whether the abundance of allegations about its technologies posing a national security risk to the United States have any basis in reality, the company confirmed. The 76-year-old attorney and politician is one of its most high-profile hirings to date and his name alone is meant to give credence to the findings of the investigation he’s preparing to carry out. The former Connecticut Senator said the Shenzhen-based electronics company is taking any accusations related to the integrity of its solutions extremely seriously and opted to retain his services in order to gather enough information to “answer” the thereof.
An exercise in futility
The very fact that Mr. Lieberman is being paid by ZTE to assess the security of its services and products unavoidably raises questions about the validity of his incoming probe, though the state-owned firm unsurprisingly doesn’t share that view and believes the veteran politician will help combat its image of a spying threat to the U.S. The high-profile Washington insider is the third ex-lawmaker hired by ZTE in recent times, with the company previously retaining the services of former Nebraska Representative Jon Christensen and former Minnesota Senator Norm Coleman. The idea of finding lobbyists inside the very establishments they’re meant to lobby with is far from novel but generally hasn’t panned out for the Chinese technology sector so far, primarily due to the strong and concentrated push against any semblance of U.S. reliance on solutions from the Far Eastern country, particularly those related to wireless communications which are now growing in importance due to the incoming arrival of the fifth generation of mobile networks widely expected to make the global economy even more connected and reliant on telecom tech.
The regulatory dust isn’t settling
ZTE spent a good portion of this year with its operations on pause while beefing with the Commerce Department over a violated 2017 settlement that saw it admit to a conspiracy to break trade embargoes imposed on North Korea and Iran. The company was on the brink of bankruptcy until U.S. President Donald Trump personally pushed for a new settlement allowing it to stay in business as part of Washington’s trade negotiations with Beijing. ZTE’s future in the U.S. remains highly dubious, especially given how the company may now also be facing yet another investigation over similar allegations concerning embargo violations, albeit ones imposed on Venezuela. At the same time, another Chinese firm with less direct ties to the communist government — Huawei — is fending off almost identical accusations, having been doing so for the better part of the current century. Huawei even had its Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou arrested in Canada on December 1 as the U.S. Department of Justice is now expected to request her extradition by the end of the month in order to try her for a conspiracy to defraud banks with the goal of violating trade embargoes imposed against Iran.