Skip to Content

Congress to Trump: Don’t go soft on China’s ZTE

June 19, 2018

President Donald Trump is threatening China with another $200 billion of trade tariffs while trying to save one of its biggest telecom firms. 
The news: Politico reports that the US Senate has passed a defense spending bill that imposes new conditions on Chinese telecom giant ZTE, including one that says civil penalties it faces in America can’t be lifted for at least a year while its behavior is monitored. The bill is supported by senators on both sides of the aisle, including Republicans Marco Rubio and Tom Cotton and Democrats Chuck Schumer and Elizabeth Warren. 
On hold: In April, the US Commerce Department banned US companies from doing business with ZTE for seven years after it was caught violating sanctions by trading with North Korea and Iran. The firm, which uses lots of US components, seemed in dire straits until the Trump administration brokered a deal to lift the ban in return for a $1 billion fine and other measures.
Why this matters: ZTE has become a pawn in both trade negotiations and national security tensions. In addition to maintaining penalties, the Senate bill would also bar US government agencies from buying gear from ZTE and Huawei, another big Chinese telco. The House is also considering legislation that would punish ZTE. Whatever happens next, China may look to build up its domestic chip industry even faster so its firms aren’t dependent on US ones or other foreign manufacturers that might be overcharging for their silicon.

Deep Dive


A chip design that changes everything: 10 Breakthrough Technologies 2023

Computer chip designs are expensive and hard to license. That’s all about to change thanks to the popular open standard known as RISC-V.

Modern data architectures fuel innovation

More diverse data estates require a new strategy—and the infrastructure to support it.

Chinese chips will keep powering your everyday life

The war over advanced semiconductor technology continues, but China will likely take a more important role in manufacturing legacy chips for common devices.

The computer scientist who hunts for costly bugs in crypto code

Programming errors on the blockchain can mean $100 million lost in the blink of an eye. Ronghui Gu and his company CertiK are trying to help.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.