President Trump on Monday defended his efforts to help a Chinese telecommunications company that violated US sanctions "get back into business, fast," despite criticism from Democrats and Republicans that the company poses a national security risk. "ZTE, the large Chinese phone company, buys a big percentage of individual parts from US companies," Trump tweeted Monday. "This is also reflective of the larger trade deal we are negotiating with China and my personal relationship with President Xi." Trump over the weekend unexpectedly announced that he and Chinese President Xi Jinping were "working together" to give ZTE "a way to get back into business, fast," saying too many jobs in China were at stake after the US government cut off access to its American suppliers.
The surprising overture to China marked a dramatic departure from Trump's rhetoric toward China during the campaign, when he said he would no longer allow China to "rape our country" and steal US jobs. The Commerce Department last month blocked ZTE Corp., a major supplier of telecom networks and smartphones based in southern China, from importing American components for seven years. The US accused ZTE of misleading American regulators over sanctions against North Korea and Iran. Trump's decision to revisit the action was welcomed by China, but panned by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, with Republican Sen. Marco Rubio tweeting that he hoped it wasn't "the beginning of backing down to China."