The “America First” president has made it his top priority to save jobs in China, according to a tweet he sent out this morning.
President Xi of China, and I, are working together to give massive Chinese phone company, ZTE, a way to get back into business, fast. Too many jobs in China lost. Commerce Department has been instructed to get it done!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 13, 2018
Trump’s topsy-turvy trade policies are causing heads to ricochet as they swing back from retaliatory tariffs to make up for the “Massive Trade Deficit” between China and the U.S. to spending American resources on helping a Chinese company that manufactures telecommunications equipment that competes with U.S. companies in the same field.
ZTE announced on Wednesday that it had halted “major operating activities.” With 75,000 employees, the sudden loss of so many jobs at once is a major concern for China, which seeks to minimize labor conflicts as a source of potential social unrest.
The Commerce Department that Trump tasked with restoring ZTE to viability actually caused the shutdown of the smartphone maker’s operations just last month by forbidding shipments of American-made microchips, software, and other electronic components for seven years because of the company’s failure to fully cooperate with U.S. trade bans on North Korea and Iran.
American telecom companies have been advised by the U.S. intelligence agencies to avoid using equipment purchased from ZTE and other Chinese telecom equipment makers like Huawei because of national security concerns over potential backdoor hacking points that could be embedded in the foreign-made technology.
Still, ZTE managed to rise to become the fourth largest smartphone brand in the U.S. despite the security warnings.
“Given his pressure on Beijing on trade, I don’t understand concern for Chinese jobs,” in the tweet, commented Adam Segal, a technology and security expert at the Council on Foreign Relations in The New York Times. It “goes against the steady stream of security warnings about ZTE,” he added.
Trump’s tweet apparently asking the Commerce Department to reverse their previous decision raises numerous questions about the motivation for the policy change.
Speculation is rampant that the announcement is related to movement in the stalled trade and tariff negotiations between the two countries, but the move could also be tied to the upcoming summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un who, despite his often rogue behavior, has been generally supported by Chinese leadership.
The biggest question that Trump’s tweet raises is how his base will respond.
In an American economy that is now reporting record low unemployment, wages have stagnated in comparison to corporate profits, high paying manufacturing jobs have been replaced with minimum-wage service jobs or benefit-free “gig economy” positions, and manufacturing jobs like those that Trump famously promised to save at the Carrier plant in Indiana are still being shipped overseas to benefit corporate profits over the American middle class.
Trump’s base can’t be stupid enough to believe that his focus on saving Chinese jobs over restoring fairly-paid U.S. jobs is in their best interest, can they?
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