Democrats took aim Monday at President Donald Trump’s announcement that the US would walk back sanctions against Chinese telecom equipment giant ZTE.
In a tweet Sunday, Trump said the sanctions — which were put in place due to ZTE’s dealings in Iran — would be reconsidered in part because, “Too many jobs in China lost.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders, a 2016 Democratic candidate for president, said Trump’s focus on supporting Chinese workers came in direct contrast to the president’s “America First” economic message.
“You can’t make this stuff up. Trump promised over and over again that he would bring back American jobs that have been outsourced to China,” Sanders tweeted. “Instead of working to bring back outsourced jobs, he is now pledging to help create jobs in China.”
The sanctions on ZTE prevented the Chinese firm from using US-made parts in their equipment, effectively crippling the company. ZTE said in a statement Wednesday that “the major operating activities of the company have ceased” and employees were only participating in occasional training sessions.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer praised the pressure on ZTE, saying it showed the Chinese government that the US wanted China to engage in serious economic reform. Going back on the sanctions, the New York Democrat said Monday, would give China the upper hand.
“One of the few areas where the president and I agreed, and I was vocally supportive, was his approach towards China,” Schumer said. “But even here he is backing off, and his policy is now designed to achieve one goal: make China great again.”
Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio derided Trump for his concern about Chinese jobs when layoffs were still present across the US.
“Hey @RealDonaldTrump — I’ve got 1,500 auto workers that are laid off at GM in Lordstown, OH,” Ryan said. “Not one tweet, not one comment from your office. Remember Ohio? The place you campaigned and told people how trade and China were destroying our middle class?”
Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, also expressed concerns over the cybersecurity of ZTE equipment. Many intelligence officers in the US have warned that the Chinese government could use ZTE equipment to spy on Americans. The Pentagon recently banned sales of ZTE phones on military bases.
“Our intelligence agencies have warned that ZTE technology and phones pose a major cyber security threat,” Schiff tweeted in response to Trump. “You should care more about our national security than Chinese jobs.”