A New Era in US-China Relations
Remarks to the Watson Institute, Brown University, and the Fairbank Center, Harvard University
Ambassador Chas W. Freeman, Jr. (USFS, Ret.)
Senior Fellow, Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs, Brown University
November 13 & 14, 2018, Providence, Rhode Island & Cambridge, Massachusetts
Surprise is what happens when reality mugs entrenched analytical views and policy narratives or when poorly considered policies produce unintended consequences. There are lots of these sorts of surprises occurring in our relations with China at present.
Let’s cut to the quick.
We are well into a major estrangement of China and the United States. It is likely to have even greater geopolitical consequences than the Sino-Soviet split of sixty years ago. As was the case then, most observers initially found it hard to imagine the prospect of enmity replacing overall cooperation between China and its principal international partner. They therefore dismissed the unfolding rupture between Beijing and Moscow as illusory or as so improbable as to be unworthy of a policy response. It took over a decade for Washington to adapt its strategy to the reality of Sino-Soviet animosity by sending Mr. Nixon to China.
Six weeks ago, on October 4, 2018, the vice president of the United States officially declared China to be the greatest threat there is to America’s security, prosperity, international standing, and technological leadership. Others in the Trump administration have chimed in, some of them adding racist slurs claiming that all Chinese academics and students in the United States must be presumed to be spies. On current evidence, it will take a while for the many likely consequences of such a hostile posture toward China to become clear. As was the case in Sino-Russian relations, it may take another two or more decades for the United States and China to find a new equilibrium that restores the advantages of partnership.
Just as the Sino-Soviet split was not merely about the withdrawal of Soviet aid workers from China, the Sino-American split is not just about trade disputes. The split reflects a rapid evolution in mutual misperception and a return to ideology in command of foreign policy, this time mostly on the American, not the Chinese side. It is ushering in what will almost certainly be a prolonged period of antagonism between the two countries. The consequences of this will be far-reaching.
Seventy years ago, China and the Soviet Union briefly became allies, meaning nations with broad mutual commitments based on their recognition of common values and interests. In short order, under the impact of the Korean War, they discovered that their interests and priorities were not as close as they had imagined. This reduced their alliance to entente – ties based on limited commitments for limited purposes. Within a decade, Chinese reactions to developments in the Soviet Union and between it and the United States had pushed the Sino-Soviet strategic relationship out of entente and into rivalry – a contest for moral and strategic leadership of the Marxist-Leninist universe.
Mao Zedong feared that Khrushchev’s criticism of Stalin set a precedent for a future Chinese leadership to denounce him. He saw Khrushchev’s use of words rather than weapons to respond to the invasion of Soviet (and Chinese) air space by American U-2s as cowardly. Mao resented the Soviet Union’s refusal to respond in kind to U.S. threats to use nuclear weapons against China in the 1955 and 1958 “offshore island crises” over Jinmen and Mazu. Moscow’s alignment with Delhi in the Sino-Indian border war of 1962 finally pushed Sino-Soviet rivalry into broad adversarial antagonism. Mao viewed the 1968 implementation of the Brezhnev Doctrine in Czechoslovakia as foreshadowing a Soviet regime change operation in China. This was the straw that finally broke the camel’s back. It catalyzed outright enmity between Beijing and Moscow, symbolized by the following year’s military clashes along their long frontier.
I am acutely aware that I have been using terms that represent diplomatic rather than academic doctrine about categories of relationships and their roles in interactions between nations. These diplomatic taxonomies range from enmity to alliance, with six or seven intermediate categories. Each category weighs the parties’ level of commitment to a specific sort of interaction with each other, and each predicts their likely responses to challenges and opportunities as they occur. In four lectures earlier this year at the American University, Harvard, and Brown, I explored the cooperative side of the spectrum — alliance, entente, protectorate, client state, and cooperative transactional relations.
I know you didn’t come here to hear a lecture on diplomatic doctrine, but precision in vocabulary is essential to understand the impact of pairings like those between the United States and China or China and Russia on global and regional geopolitics. So, bear with me as I briefly outline the categories of relationship on the antagonistic side of the spectrum: enmity, adversarial antagonism, rivalry, and competitive transactionalism.
Enmity anchors one end of the taxonomy. It embraces a desire to destroy another country’s strategic position, cripple its capabilities, and remove it as both a threat and an obstacle to the fulfillment of one’s own objectives. Whether active or latent, enmity is, in effect, a state of war that justifies attacks on another designed to reduce it. Enemies are prepared to accept pain so that they can inflict it in return. Enmity describes the sort of zero-sum relationship that the United States had with China in the first two decades of the People’s Republic or the relationship north and south Korea have had until very recently.
Next, adversarial antagonism drives a search for strategic advantage by measures short of war that undercut an opponent’s capabilities. It involves countering, undermining and, to the extent possible, disabling an opponent’s sources of strength and vitality, including its relationships with third parties and groupings. Cold War interactions between the United States and the Soviet Union were an instance of an adversarial relationship. It fell just short of enmity. It played out in proxy wars rather than in direct combat only because both sides feared escalation to a mutually catastrophic nuclear exchange.
After the United States intervened to suspend the Chinese civil war by interposing the Seventh Fleet in the Taiwan Strait, interactions between Taipei and Beijing were characterized by adversarial antagonism. (For two decades – 1951 to 1971, the United States sustained Taipei’s challenge to the People’s Republic’s legitimacy as the government of China, isolated mainland China internationally, destabilized it with covert action against it, and contained its ability to implement its claims in the East and South China Seas.) Cuban-American relations and the current Russian-American contention in Ukraine and the Levant are other examples of adversarial antagonism.
Rivalry is competition for influence and advantage in which each party aims to enhance its strength and strategic position but without necessarily harming the interests and capabilities of the other. It is a race for relative advantage that lacks the malice and implicit sadism of adversarial antagonism. Rivalry encompasses cooperation with the other party calculated to increase one’s own strategic advantage and bargaining power. Think of Britain and France after the First World War or Taiwan and the China mainland after they both endorsed the legal fiction of “one China.”
Transactional relations may be biased toward competition or collaboration. In either case, transactionalism lies between rivalry and clientism. It is a strategy that avoids broad commitment and aims at enhancing autonomy and limiting dependence on other nations while remaining open to one-off opportunities to gain relative advantage for one’s own country. The U.S. exemplified this strategy from its independence to World War II, when it abruptly embraced alliances, ententes, protectorates, and client states to build a sphere of influence. The current U.S. relationships with Singapore and India exemplify various degrees of cooperative transactionalism. American interactions with Pakistan fall into the category of competitive transactionalism – a much warier relationship in which the parties work against each other at least as much as they cooperate.
Over the past hundred years, Sino-American relations have embodied every category of relationship in this taxonomy except alliance. They are again experiencing a phase change.
The fall of the Soviet Union marked the end of Sino-American entente. Both sides tried to preserve it, but that proved infeasible in the aftermath of the June 4, 1989 suppression of the student uprising in Beijing, Chengdu, and elsewhere in China. The relationship deteriorated into one of competitive transactionalism. After 2010, when the Sino-Japanese dispute over the Senkaku Islands emerged and the United States asserted a countervailing interest in the South China Sea, the Sino-American relationship entered a period of escalating rivalry.
The Trump administration has now taken a significant step beyond rivalry – into adversarial antagonism. Part of the rationale for this shift is assertive revisionism. Its proponents insist that China has always seen the United States as an adversary to be displaced, supplanted, or subdued. Their ahistorical thesis confuses rivalry with adversarial antagonism, but they have succeeded in establishing it as the dominant narrative. This narrative presumes that China is (and has been) more concerned about its ability to project power abroad and its standing in the eyes of the United States than with its domestic development. There is no evidence for that and much that refutes it, but it resonates with a persistent gap between the limited objectives of U.S. policy toward China and the widespread, ideologically based American expectation that engagement with China would Americanize it.
In the first year of the Clinton administration, the U.S. attempted to coerce the restructuring of human rights practices in China by linking them to improved access to the U.S. market. This effort took only fifteen months to fail and be abandoned. U.S. policy then reverted to its previous objective of engineering changes in China’s external behavior rather than in its domestic political economy. The Clinton experiment was the exception that proved the rule.
Still, major elements of the American elite continued to justify their support of engagement with China in ideological rather than strategic terms. They imagined a process of convergence by which the Chinese political system would be liberalized. American thought leaders fed this delusion by tempering their denunciations of China’s political system with expressions of pious hope for its democratization. But at no point did America put its money where its mouth was. In the 1950s and ‘60s, Washington carried out active programs of foreign assistance to incentivize or otherwise promote the rule of law, the growth of civil society, and evolution toward democracy in client states like Taiwan and south Korea, among others. The United States did not seek to replicate these successes on the China mainland, preferring propaganda to engagement.
Denunciatory diplomacy is a form of demagogic grandstanding. It gratifies those who engage in it but consistently fails to persuade its target to change for the better. Despite often strident criticism from American politicians, China stubbornly refuses to cease to be “Chinese.” It remains uninspired by the European Enlightenment, reliant on authoritarianism as the antidote to anarchy, committed to leadership by a meritocratically composed, hierarchical political elite, insistent that its citizens at least appear to conform their self-interest to national aspirations for the restoration of wealth and power, and devoted to industrial policies that manipulate market forces to incentivize desirable investment and economic transactions.
China’s failure to fulfill American ideological expectations now inspires claims that Sino-American relations have always been abusive and that “China started this war.” “This war” means, variously, Trump’s trade war, an alleged Chinese quest for global dominance, or an imagined Chinese attempt to replace the “rule-bound international order.” In U.S. politics, a priori reasoning now routinely trumps evidence, and reality is treated as an annoying but readily rebuttable phenomenon. The constant public reiteration of inaccurate allegations breeds acceptance of them. It does not turn them into facts. Still, it is now politically incorrect for an American to say anything constructive about China without first condemning Chinese policies and practices.
China is, of course, guilty of abuses that justify American complaints and tough-minded demands for change. Some Chinese companies, including some that are state-owned, have engaged in the theft of American companies’ intellectual property. The Chinese state has occasionally employed its law enforcement agencies to intimidate American and other foreign companies on its soil into yielding commercially sensitive information to it. Chinese hackers, some working for the Chinese state, have stolen valuable technology and data from U.S. companies.
Some attractive sections of the Chinese economy are off-limits to foreigners, especially to those from countries like the United States that challenge China’s frontiers, abet separatist forces on Chinese soil, and pride themselves on their preparations for war with the Chinese military. China subsidizes its industrial development with cheap credit. Subsidies distort markets. (China is hardly alone in having industrial policies involving subsidies of various sorts, but its practices are all-the-more objectionable for having been unusually effective.)
Then too, for the first time in nearly two centuries, China can now defend its periphery against foreign attack, including by the formidable armed forces of the United States. This is a challenge to seven decades of American military supremacy in the Asia-Pacific, including in China’s near seas. China’s military modernization has generated a classic security dilemma in which one side’s defensive move is seen as threatening and requiring a response by the other. China has very active intelligence services that target the United States government, just as U.S. agencies target China. Chinese cyberwarriors have penetrated the U.S. military-industrial complex. These interactions have not endeared either country to the other. Nor does military posturing by both sides over Taiwan, South China Sea claims, or the Sino-Japanese dispute over the Senkaku / Diaoyu Islands.
But some accusations against China verge on the absurd. They reflect both President Trump’s peculiarly premodern mercantilism and his placement of various elements of policy in the hands of fringe figures with hyper-nationalist obsessions about China. Blaming China for declining U.S. wellbeing and competitiveness is easier than acknowledging our own contributions to our current socioeconomic malaise, much of it caused by the diversion of trillions of dollars from investment in domestic human and physical infrastructure to pay for endless warfare abroad. There is nothing abnormal or sinister about companies trading access to their technology for access to the vast and rapidly growing Chinese market. And supply chains are a realization of the efficiencies of comparative advantage, not a plot to rob Americans of jobs. Companies do business in China because they find it profitable to do so. If they can’t prosper there, they can and do go elsewhere.
To a remarkable extent, the charges against China levied by the disparate anti-China factions of the Trump administration represent “mirror-imaging” or the misguided idées fixes of recently exhumed “zombie sinologists” in perpetual pursuit of notoriety rather than empirically validated analysis. The United States accuses China of gaming the “rule-bound international order” and engaging in “economic aggression.” Meanwhile, Washington un-self-critically seeks to shut down WTO dispute settlement mechanisms, abruptly withdraws from international agreements, launches trade wars, promiscuously imposes unilateral sanctions, ignores the U.N. Charter, defies international courts, attempts violent regime change in other countries, assassinates presumed enemies with drone warfare and commando raids, and wages or supports others in aggressive wars across the planet. In this context, the Trump administration’s reversals of half a century’s effort to incorporate and enmesh China in the rule-bound, US-sponsored international order and its substitution of economic warfare for norms-based trade and investment and negotiation of specific issues with China are a much bigger geopolitical earthquake than most seem to realize.
Vice President Pence’s anti-China diatribe at the Hudson Institute on October 4 has convinced most in the Chinese establishment that the U.S. objective toward them is regime change. President Trump says he’s determined to “keep China from becoming bigger than us.” He is confident that, if he imposes enough pain on the Chinese, they will capitulate to him because, in his view, the United States is much stronger than China and bullying works. But, with all due respect for our president’s self-proclaimed “very, very big brain,” his judgment on this is likely as poor as it has been on many other foreign policy issues. It is not necessarily the case that the balance of power and prestige favors the United States over China. American attempts to coerce China are as likely to backfire as to succeed.
The outcome of an economic, political, or military contest between the United States and China would once have been certain. But before you start a war, you should do a serious study of whether you can win it. Such a study now might well conclude that China can prevail against Trump’s America, though at terrible cost to both countries.
In recent years, the United States has retreated from leadership of the global and regional institutions it originally created. China has been drawn into the resulting vacuum, sponsoring new organizations like the “BRICS” bank, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), and various Silk Road funds to address unmet needs for development finance. But, far from supplanting them, these new multilateral organizations have replicated, complemented, and, in most cases, slightly improved the practices of Bretton Woods-derived institutions like the World Bank and regional development banks.
If the United States continues to decline to join in investing in legacy institutions and to boycott new ones, Beijing will find ready partners to help it create still more groupings in which Washington is represented only by an empty chair. China will also work with others, such as the Europeans, Indians, Japanese, and Russians, to develop alternatives to dollar-based trade settlement. Many countries are interested in crafting a monetary system independent of the U.S. currency to free themselves from being forced to follow US-dictated sanctions. What strategic counteroffers can, or will the United States Treasury make to meet foreign concerns about its abuses of dollar hegemony to impose U.S. policies abroad? None is in sight.
China’s economic clout should not be underestimated. It accounts for over one-fourth of the world’s industrial production – already about 1 ½ times American output and steadily widening the gap. It is the world’s largest exporter, its second largest importer, and the biggest trading partner of most of the world’s nations. It is – by a wide margin – the world’s biggest consumer of commodities, like aluminum, nickel, copper, zinc, tin, steel, lead, cotton, rice, gold, corn, and wheat. Countries producing these things depend on the Chinese market. China is now rapidly re-sourcing its imports to the benefit of non-American agricultural producers. Whatever the outcome of Trump’s trade war, American farmers have likely lost their previous, preferred position in the China market for many years to come.
No doubt intellectual property theft accelerated China’s economic advance, but it is now overshadowed by the increasingly significant contributions to science and technology of China’s rapidly expanding intellectual workforce. By 2025, China is expected to have more scientists, technologists, engineers, and mathematicians than all the member countries of the OECD combined. Chinese are already contributing much to the advance of science and technology in universities and labs in the United States and other OECD member countries as well as in their homeland. There is a very real risk that reducing American openness to collaboration with Chinese intellectuals will do more to erode U.S. technological leadership than to counter China’s. The U.S. attempt to reverse dependence on high tech imports from China has already incentivized China to replace supply chains connected to the United States with indigenous production. The ZTE (中兴) debacle and the more recent assault on Fujian Jinhua (福建晋华) have demonstrated that reliance on supply chains involving the United States can be fatal. As a result, American technology firms may also be about to lose their previously booming China market.
In purchasing power terms, China’s overall economy is one-third larger than the United States and is growing between twice and three times as fast. The Trump administration’s belief in American centrality to the global economy notwithstanding, the EU, not the United States, is China’s largest trading partner. Wobbly European economies like those of Greece and Italy look to expanded trade and investment ties to China for a cure. China – not the U.S. – is the biggest economic partner of every country in the Indo-Pacific, most in Africa and Latin America, and many in the Middle East. Even if Trump’s trade war slows China’s growth somewhat, it will remain the largest fast-growing market in the world. Why should a significant number of other countries join the United States in putting trade and investment with China at risk?
Politically, the United States has long had global appeal that China’s authoritarian system cannot match. The current evolution of Chinese politics toward greater and more intrusive control of individual freedom of expression is further undercutting Chinese attractiveness. But China has lifted all but a tiny minority of its vast population out of poverty. It is building a generous social safety net. It is visibly pursuing equality of opportunity and social justice. These attributes of the People’s Republic inspire foreign admiration even as America’s reputation for aspiration to a higher moral standard than other countries wanes. Despite its spiritual blemishes, China’s system delivers material results.
Governance as well as human and physical infrastructure in the United States continue to deteriorate. The ever more evident divisions, inequalities, and injustices in American society are redefining the U.S. image abroad. Americans present a far less pretty picture to the world than we once did. U.S. alliances and partnerships are fraying, not strengthening. On a growing number of international issues – from climate change to Palestine and respect for the sovereignty of other states – it is the United States, not China, that is isolated.
No nation wants to have to choose between China and the United States. The economic clout of China aside, almost no countries aspire to model themselves on China. But none, other than the United States, wants to sever economic ties with it. If forced to choose between the United States and China, very few countries, if any, are likely to embrace alignment with the underperforming, self-centered American political and socioeconomic system.
Militarily, the United States is supreme on the global level. But the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA’s) current focus is not on the global level. It is on defending China’s borders as Beijing defines them, and on securing the approaches to China’ coasts. China has no global sphere of influence or alliances to distract it or divert it into hostilities with others. It has not sought to project its military power to other continents.
China’s logistical and communications lines are short. It now deploys modern naval forces that considerably outnumber and, in some respects, outmatch American forces in its vicinity. Its newest weapons outrange those of the U.S. Navy and Air Force.
In short, China has built a credible deterrent to American attack, against the prospect of which it continues to model its capabilities. To buttress deterrence, it has left open the risk that conflict could escalate to the nuclear level. Shockingly, there are no mechanisms for escalation control in place between Beijing and Washington. Neither the extent nor the outcome of a Sino-American war can be reliably predicted. Nor, short of the annihilation of one side by the other, is it easy to see how and on what terms such a war would end. There are very good reasons for both sides to focus on avoiding armed combat. That is good news.
But, as China overcomes its shock at the U.S. government’s recent hostility, it will adopt behavior ever more consistent with a relationship of adversarial antagonism. Troublesome issues like how to avoid conflict in the South China Sea and how to maintain peace between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait, will become less manageable. Up to now, China has sought to avoid confrontations with the United States. China has opposed the U.S. only when American actions have contradicted its “core” interests, and then only with carefully limited means. China can now be expected to make direct efforts to thwart U.S. policies and register gains at U.S. expense. It will be open to siding with another country or group of countries against the United States when doing so undercuts U.S. influence, even if there is no short-term advantage to China.
Russia is already in an anti-American entente with China. The two will not become allies, but U.S. designation of both as adversaries is broadening their entente. Japan has begun to hedge against perceived U.S. unreliability by tempering its rivalry with China with cooperative transactionalism. This modest repositioning of Japan between China and the United States enables Tokyo to regain some of the strategic independence it lost with its subjugation by Americans following World War II. India has just signed arms deals with Russia that emphasize its unwillingness to compromise its independence by joining the United States in attempting to isolate Russia. Despite Sino-Indian rivalry, Delhi will not follow the United States into across-the-board antagonism to Beijing. Australia, NATO members, and America’s partners in the Middle East have also shown no inclination to do so.
There are plenty of grievances against the United States out there for China to exploit, if it concludes that this would be to its advantage. For example, it might agree with other nations to bar imports from countries that do not conform to standards set under the Paris climate accords or to impose globally coordinated tariffs on them. (Now that Syria has joined, the only country outside the Paris accords is the United States.) As its technology advances, China can be expected to impose bilateral export controls to reciprocate those applied to it by the United States. If the current American effort to paralyze the WTO’s dispute resolution mechanisms succeeds, China could work with other countries to develop alternative multilateral mechanisms with the power to sanction violators. And so forth.
China is already at the center of the Indo-Pacific region’s economies. If the drift toward Sino-American enmity continues, China will have every reason to translate its economic power into politico-military deference that increasingly excludes U.S. influence and access in the region. Already, some other previously US-aligned countries seem poised to follow the Philippines into an accommodation of China at U.S. expense. If it proceeds toward enmity, Sino-American antagonism will not be confined to areas near China like the Korean Peninsula and Southeast Asia. Beijing might well decide that it is in its strategic interest to distract or weaken the United States by bolstering American adversaries in countries like Iran, Syria, and Turkey. Beyond Eurasia, if a full-blown state of adversarial antagonism unfolds, Cuba, Venezuela, and other Latin American countries are logical candidates for China to help stand against the United States. Meanwhile, rather than giving them a pass (as it largely has), China can be expected to challenge U.S. policies it disagrees with through direct clashes and vetoes in the U.N. as well as through diplomacy in regional capitals.
A few years back, China declared that it was in search of “a new form of great power relations” based on mutual accommodation between it and other great powers. Instead, it faces a new form of great-power warfare that seeks to inflict harm on its economic, scientific, and technological advance by protectionism, economic aggression, and other measures short of war. If China is wise, it will respond to what it views as an attempted American existential threat against it with restraint. It has a compelling interest in working with American allies, partners, and friends to preserve the rule-bound order in which it and others have prospered. And it should leave the door open for a future American leadership to craft a less hostile, more cooperative Sino-American relationship in which entente on some subjects coexists with transactionalism and rivalry on others.
If the United States is wise, it will recognize that it is risking much for little prospective gain. It will call off the virtual war on China that it has announced. It will seek instead to work with China to address problems that affect both countries and that cannot be ameliorated without Sino-American cooperation. Among such issues are how to counter climate change, raise the quality of life and open new opportunities for expanded prosperity in both societies, cooperate to meet new challenges to international security and prosperity, revive and modernize international law, restore respect for sovereignty, and reduce adversarial interactions in the new strategic domains of space and cyberspace.
That’s asking a lot of a Chinese government that feels its back is up against the wall and that is not known for its empathy with non-Chinese. It’s asking even more of a U.S. government that officially denies the reality of climate change, disbelieves in science, adheres to mercantilism, sees any challenge to American primacy as an existential threat, believes that “might makes right,” violates the sovereignty of others while insisting on its own, is about to create a “Space Force,” and has just put together a new unified command to prosecute cyberwarfare. But we live in a world in which, clearly, anything, no matter how improbable, is believable – maybe even possible.
Short of fixing things, we can at least resolve not to make them worse. China and the United States have both benefitted greatly from the cooperation they began forty-six years ago with President Nixon’s trip to China. Our partnership helped bring down our common Soviet enemy. Our trading relationship has grown into the world’s largest. Our investment relationship was clearly headed that way. Our intellectual and educational exchanges dwarf those in any other bilateral relationship. Our collaborations in science are changing the world for the better, extending the human lifespan, and putting new ways of interacting with each other before humankind. Travel between us for business and tourism has created commercial and personal ties that have enriched the lives of a growing number of our citizens. Whatever happens between governments, the bonds between the American and Chinese people have never been stronger or more mutually advantageous.
In the difficult times to come, we must preserve what we can, including prospects for future rapprochement. Where governments fail, civil society can sustain hope until governments and their policies change.
 (1) Diplomacy: A Rusting Tool of American Statecraft (https://chasfreeman.net/diplomacy-a-rusting-tool-of-american-statecraft/); (2) Diplomacy as Strategy (https://chasfreeman.net/diplomacy-as-strategy/); (3) Diplomacy as Tactics (https://chasfreeman.net/diplomacy-as-tactics/); and (4) Diplomacy as Risk Management (https://chasfreeman.net/diplomacy-as-risk-management/).
 ZTE Corporation is a multinational telecommunications equipment and systems company headquartered in Shenzhen, Guangdong, China, and one of China’s leading telecom equipment manufacturers. The U.S. fined ZTE for having purloined the intellectual property of American companies and for violating unilateral U.S. sanctions on Iran and north Korea. The Trump administration then exploited ZTE’s reliance on U.S. computer chips to put it out of business. The company’s closure cost 70,000 Chinese jobs, plus an unknown number of jobs on the part of its U.S. suppliers. Despite clamor from members of the Senate and House of Representatives, who speculated that ZTE might engage in espionage against the United States, the Trump administration finally authorized the resumption of U.S. exports to ZTE, which was able to resume production under close supervision from U.S. inspectors.