BEIJING — The Chinese electronics maker ZTE has survived its brush with death. Now it has to figure out how to stay in business.
北京——中国电子产品制造商中兴与死神擦肩而过。现在,它必须想清楚怎么经营下去。
With this week’s deal to replace near-fatal American sanctions on the telecommunications giant with a $1 billion fine, the company will be able to get back to making smartphones and network equipment. Barred from buying American-made components for the past two months, it halted operations and will now have to mend relations with customers.
在本周达成协议,用10亿美元(约合64亿元人民币)的罚款换取美国解除近乎致命的处罚措施后,这家电信巨头将得以恢复智能手机和网络设备制造。过去两个月,该公司因被禁止购买美国制造的零部件而停止业务。现在,它必须修复与客户的关系。
It will also need to confront deeper questions about its way of doing business, which has left a trail of accusations of bribery, overbilling and rule-breaking.
中兴还需面对外界对其经营方式更深层次的质疑。它的经营方式有一连串被控贿赂、超额计费和违规的记录。
“Even with the ban lifted, operators will think twice about bringing them in, no matter what sorts of measures are taken from a transparency or compliance perspective,” said Bengt Nordstrom, chief executive of the telecom consultancy Northstream.
“即使禁令取消,运营商也会慎重考虑引入它们,无论从透明或合规的角度采取了什么举措,”电信咨询公司Northstream的首席执行官本特·努德斯特伦(Bengt Nordstrom)说。
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Officials in China made rescuing ZTE a top priority during recent trade talks with Washington. The Trump administration gave the company a second chance in order to help cool tensions with Beijing ahead of a summit meeting next week with North Korea’s leader.
最近与华盛顿举行贸易谈判期间,中方官员将拯救中兴列为头等大事。在下周与朝鲜领导人举行会谈前夕,特朗普政府给了中兴第二次机会,以便缓和与北京的紧张关系。
But the accusations of wrongdoing by ZTE — a previously little-known manufacturer that became an unlikely political football, then an even unlikelier object of sympathy for President Trump — speak to a broader issue for China.
但对中国来说,对中兴不当行为的指控反映出了一个更广泛的问题。中兴此前是一家鲜为人知的制造商,没想到成了政治足球,后来更没想到得到了特朗普总统的同情。
Chinese companies are going global in force, in areas as varied as construction, entertainment and railways. But the country’s leaders want to foster national champions, brand names known worldwide for quality.
中国公司正在建筑、娱乐和铁路等各种领域大举走向全球。但中国领导人希望培养出全国冠军,也就是以质量闻名于世的品牌。
A reputation for flouting the rules, combined with national security fears about high-tech products from China, does not help that effort.
藐视规则的名声,连同对中国高科技产品的国家安全担忧,无助于这一行动。
Violations of trade controls on Iran and North Korea were what got ZTE in trouble with the United States Department of Commerce. As part of the deal on Thursday, the company will replace its board and senior leadership. Compliance officers will be installed within the company and will report to Washington. ZTE did not respond to a request for comment.
中兴落到美国商务部手里是因为它违反了对伊朗和朝鲜的贸易管控。作为周四达成的协议的一部分,中兴将更换董事会和高层领导成员。合规人员将入驻该公司并向华盛顿汇报。中兴没有回复记者的置评请求。
This was hardly the first time ZTE has faced allegations of questionable business conduct. In Kenya, a contract between ZTE and the local police was canceled in 2013 because of overbilling, a decision the company appealed but failed to overturn. In Algeria, two ZTE executives were convicted of corruption in 2012. At the time, ZTE said it had no comment on the Algerian ruling.
这不是中兴第一次面临商业行为可疑的指控。在肯尼亚,2013年中兴与当地警方之间的一份合同超额计费被废除。中兴上诉,但未能推翻裁决。2012年,中兴两名高管在阿尔及利亚被判腐败罪名成立。当时,中兴表示对阿尔及利亚的裁决不予置评。
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Zambia ended a contract with ZTE in 2013, after finding that an auction had not taken place, leading to suspicions that the project’s costs had been inflated. In the Philippines, the company was accused in 2007 of bribing officials including the country’s president at the time. (The corruption case against the president was later dropped because of a lack of evidence.)
2013年,赞比亚在发现一场拍卖并没有举行后终止了与中兴的一项合同。此事引发了外界对该项目成本被夸大的怀疑。在菲律宾,中兴2007年被控贿赂官员,包括该国当时的总统(后来因为缺乏证据,控告总统的腐败案被撤销)。
In response to these and other cases, Norway’s sovereign wealth fund, one of the world’s largest, said in 2016 that it would exclude ZTE from its investments. The fund’s ethics council said there was “an unacceptable risk that ZTE has been involved in gross corruption and that the company may again become involved in similar practices.”
作为对这些和另一些案件的回应,全球最大的主权财富基金之一挪威主权财富基金在2016年表示,将把中兴排除在自己的投资对象之外。该基金的道德委员会说,“中兴涉嫌严重腐败并且可能再次卷入类似行为的风险令人难以接受。”
The company’s record is not unblemished in its home market, either. A local manager for China Mobile, the country’s largest wireless operator, was found guilty last year of accepting bribes from several companies, including a ZTE subsidiary. ZTE did not comment at the time.
中兴在国内市场的表现也并非完美无瑕。去年,中国最大的无线运营商中国移动的一名地方管理人员被判犯有收受多家公司,包括中兴的一家子公司贿赂的罪行。中兴当时没有发表评论。
It has other issues in the United States, too. American officials have for years voiced concerns that ZTE equipment may be used by the Chinese government for espionage or network disruption, an allegation also leveled against the firm’s main Chinese rival, Huawei.
中兴在美国还面临其他问题。多年来,美国官员一直担心中兴的设备可能会被中国政府用来从事间谍活动或干扰网络。中兴主要的中国竞争对手华为也受到了同样的指控。
As a result, large American mobile companies such as AT&T are effectively barred from buying gear from the two companies, and small American carriers may soon be as well, if a proposed Federal Communications Commission rule goes into effect.
因此,美国电话电报公司(AT&T)等美国大型移动公司实际上被禁止从这两家公司购买设备。如果联邦通信委员会(Federal Communications Commission)提出的一项规定生效,美国的小型运营商可能很快也会收到禁令。
中兴Axon M智能手机的双屏幕。
中兴Axon M智能手机的双屏幕。 Simon Dawson/Bloomberg
ZTE executives are hoping to move past at least one aspect of their fraught relationship with Washington. On Friday, in a letter to employees that was reviewed by The New York Times, the company’s chairman, Yin Yimin, apologized for what he called “problems” in the company’s culture and management.
中兴的高管希望至少度过与华盛顿令人担忧的关系中的一个方面。周五,在《纽约时报》查阅的一封写给员工的信中,中兴董事长殷一民为他所说的公司在文化和管理上的“问题”道歉。
“Our executives and employees must reflect on this incident, absorb the lessons and earnestly hold ourselves to account to prevent this kind of situation from ever happening again,” wrote Mr. Yin, who took his post last year.
“我们要组织广大干部和员工对事件进行复盘反思,吸取教训,并切实问责,防止今后再有类似情况发生,”去年上任的殷一民写道。
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Zhongxing Telecommunications Equipment was not always such a problem child for China’s leaders. It started out in 1985 as a joint venture between a state-owned aerospace factory and two other companies. In the 1990s, ZTE joined other Chinese businesses in venturing into the international market. Officials hailed ZTE as an exemplar of a new kind of Chinese company, one that was “state owned, privately run.”
对于中国领导人来说,中兴通讯股份有限公司并非一直都是个麻烦不断的公司。1985年,它一开始以国有航空工厂及其他两家公司的合资企业起步。1990年代,中兴加入了其他中国企业的步伐,开始涉足国际市场。官员们赞扬中兴为一种新型中国公司的典范,这种公司“为国有,但由私人运营”。
ZTE’s shares are listed publicly, but its largest shareholder is backed by two state entities, and the Chinese government has long helped and championed the company. In 2012, when ZTE was losing money, the state-backed China Development Bank swooped in with a $20 billion financing agreement.
中兴是上市公司,但其最大的股东由两家国有实体支持,中国政府也长期给予该公司帮助,支持该公司。2012年,当中兴出现亏损时,政府背景的国家开发银行突然介入,达成了一项200亿美元的融资协议
Today, with the development of the next wave of wireless technology, or 5G, both ZTE and Huawei are playing a major role in shaping global standards and preparing new equipment. ZTE’s ability to be a leading 5G player now looks shaky, however.
今天,随着下一波无线技术的发展,中兴和华为都在制定全球标准、筹备新设备方面起着重要作用。然而,如今中兴成为领先的5G玩家的能力看起来并不稳固。
“In 5G, ZTE has successfully pushed themselves to the forefront with primary research and development,” said Chris Lane, a telecom analyst in Hong Kong with Sanford C. Bernstein. “Carriers were considering using them, and that’s clearly gone now.”
“在5G方面,中兴已经成功地用初步研究和开发将自己推入了前沿,”桑福德-伯恩斯坦公司(Sanford C. Bernstein)驻香港的电信分析师克里斯·莱恩(Chris Lane)说。“运营商曾经考虑要启用他们,但现在很显然不会了。”
This week’s deal with Washington is the latest step in the long, tortuous narrative of ZTE’s dealings in Iran.
本周与华盛顿的交易,是中兴与伊朗打交道的漫长、曲折叙事的最新一步。
According to the Commerce Department, the company used American-sourced technology to build and maintain telecom networks there, employing seemingly independent businesses to dodge United States sanctions.
根据商务部,该公司使用源自美国的技术,打造并维护在当地的电信网络,雇佣看似独立的企业,以规避美国制裁。
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After officials began investigating, ZTE falsely told government agents that it had already stopped shipments to Iran, according to United States authorities. It asked a team of employees to destroy materials related to the Iran business, the agency said. It even made plans to resume shipments to Iran while the investigation was underway, the agency said.
据美国当局表示,在官员们开始展开调查后,中兴向政府工作人员谎称已经停止向伊朗发货。该机构表示,中兴曾要求一组员工销毁与伊朗业务有关的材料。商务部说,该公司甚至在调查期间,制定重新恢复向伊朗发货的计划。
In March 2017, Washington hit the company with $1.19 billion in penalties and ordered it to submit to regular audits.
2017年3月,华盛顿开出11.9亿美元的罚单,并且下令要求中兴接受常规审计,重创了该公司
But in March this year, ZTE told the Commerce Department that it had previously made false statements about what it had done to discipline employees involved in the Iran violations. The agency then ordered that American companies be banned from selling technology to ZTE for seven years.
但在今年3月,中兴告诉商务部,称它此前曾经就惩罚参与伊朗违规行为的员工方面作出了虚假陈述。该机构于是下令禁止美国公司向中兴出售技术,为期七年。
The pattern of falsehoods, the order said, was “indicative of a company incapable of being, or unwilling to be, a reliable and trustworthy recipient of U.S.-origin goods, software and technology.” Additional financial penalties were “unlikely to lead to the company’s reform,” the department said.
禁令中说,它的作假方式“表明一家公司无法、或不愿意成为来自美国的商品、软件及技术的可靠且可信赖的接受方”。额外的经济处罚“不太可能会让这家公司进行改革”,商务部说。
The financial penalty announced this week — $1 billion plus $400 million held in escrow — sets a record for civil and criminal penalties in a sanctions case, according to the agency.
根据该机构,本周宣布的经济处罚——10亿美元外加交由第三方保管的4亿美元——创下了在制裁案中民事和刑事处罚的新纪录。
While mobile carriers in many countries may now be wary of buying from ZTE, that might not be the case in China, where the company makes most of its money.
尽管许多国家的手机运营商如今会对从中兴购买产品持谨慎态度,但在中国却并非如此,该公司的大部分利润都源于国内市场。
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“Chinese carriers will be less sensitive, because they are state enterprises,” said Edison Lee, a telecom analyst at Jefferies in Hong Kong. “They follow the government’s ‘Buy China’ policy.”
“中国运营商比较不敏感,因为他们是国企,”杰富瑞集团(Jefferies)驻香港的电信分析师李裕生表示。“他们遵循的是政府‘买国货’的政策”。
Still, he said, “I’m not sure the Chinese government can help them again if they don’t behave.”
他说,尽管如此,“我不确定如果他们不循规蹈矩的话,中国政府是否能再次帮到他们。”
This week, the website of China Radio International, a state broadcaster, published an opinion piece on ZTE that said Chinese companies should not be “giant babies” that relied on Beijing to get them out of tough spots.
本周,官方媒体中国国际广播电台就中兴发表了一篇观点文章,称中国企业不应该成为依靠北京把它们从困境中解救出来的“巨婴”。
“More and more Chinese companies have gone overseas in recent years, but once they are abroad, the key is to take it upon themselves to fully understand international standards and laws,” the article says. “Powerful as the motherland may be, companies still need to handle their own issues.”
“中国企业这几年走出国门的越来越多,但出门在外,关键要靠自己把国际规则法律吃透弄明白,”该文写道。“祖国再强大,自己的事儿还要自己做、自己扛。”