Bad cop, good cop strategies are nothing new, but it’s rare to see both roles being played by the same person. Some might see it as a change of heart, mercy, or even forgiveness. Others might pin it down on multiple personality disorder. Either way, US President Donald Trump has tweeted that he instructed the country’s Commerce Department to quickly find a way to get ZTE up and running again just weeks after the same government signed its death sentence.
ZTE last week said that it was suspending all its operations in light of the recent sanction imposed by the US government over the company’s violation of the US ban on exports to Iran and other countries. While ZTE is still hoping that it could work out an agreement with companies and the US government, its future was totally bleak. Both its smartphone business as well as its networking hardware operations would have to be closed down.
Now it seems that Trump is instructing his government to make a complete U-turn. In contrast to the rather harsh sanction that the Commerce Department meted out, the US president is seemingly reaching out a saving hand for the company and, more importantly, its employees.
It’s a strange twist, one that has many layers and many possible theories explaining the change of direction. It’s unlikely that Trump wasn’t aware of the ramifications of the sanction, especially after weeks of media coverage. While not discounting the completely human possibility of changing one’s mind, Trump could also be trying to project the image of a savior sympathetic to the plight of Chinese workers that have suddenly become unemployed. There’s also the possibility of using the situation as a political bargaining chip with China, showing how the US is more than capable of imposing such rules that could greatly affect the Chinese economy.