President Donald Trump on Wednesday dismissed criticism that he was caving to China’s trade demands to save Chinese telecommunications company ZTE.
The President touched off a new controversy over the weekend when he announced on Twitter that he was working with Chinese President Xi Jinping to give ZTE “a way to get back into business, fast,” adding that he had instructed the US Commerce Department to “get it done.”
“Nothing has happened with ZTE except as it pertains to the larger trade deal,” Trump tweeted Wednesday, singling out The Washington Post and CNN for their coverage. “Our country has been losing hundreds of billions of dollars a year with China.”
He continued, “We have not seen China’s demands yet, which should be few in that previous U.S. Administrations have done so poorly in negotiating. China has seen our demands. There has been no folding as the media would love people to believe, the meetings haven’t even started yet! The U.S. has very little to give, because it has given so much over the years. China has much to give!”
On Tuesday, Josh Rogin, who also is a CNN contributor, wrote in The Washington Post that Trump “(undermined) his own objectives for no visible gain.”
Trump’s weekend tweet signaled a potential shift in administration policy heading into a week of high-level trade negotiations between the US and China. Washington and Beijing have threatened to impose tariffs on tens of billions of dollars of each other’s products, fueling fears of a full-blown trade war.
ZTE said last week that it halted its main operations after the Trump administration banned American companies from selling it vital components.
Last month, the US Commerce Department blocked American firms from selling parts or providing services to the Chinese company, which makes smartphones and other telecommunications equipment. The ban was put in place after Washington said ZTE violated a deal in which the Chinese company agreed to pay a $1.2 billion fine for evading US sanctions on Iran and North Korea.
But ZTE has also long been the target of scrutiny for regulators and officials in the United States, which is wary of its ties to the Chinese government. The company’s controlling shareholder is Shenzhen Zhongxingxin Telecommunications Equipment, a Chinese state-owned corporation.
One 2012 congressional report about ZTE and Huawei, another huge Chinese tech company, said the companies “cannot be trusted to be free of foreign state influence and thus pose a security threat to the United States and to our systems.” Both companies strongly disputed the report’s findings.
Trump’s tweet on Sunday was quickly met with bipartisan criticism.
“#China intends to dominate the key industries of the 21st Century not through out innovating us, but by stealing our intellectual property & exploiting our open economy while keeping their own closed. Why are we helping them achieve this by making a terrible deal on ZTE?” Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, tweeted Tuesday.
And Rep. Adam Schiff, a California Democrat, tweeted that Trump “should care more about our national security than Chinese jobs.”
CNN’s Jackie Wattles, Sherisse Pham, and Daniel Shane contributed to this report.