The story of Chinese telecommunication firm ZTE’s death and resurrection, both at the hands of the Trump administration, has taken another bizarre turn, this time resulting in employees having to hold in their pee. The company is opting not to fix urinal that requires parts from an American manufacturer for fear of breaching a ban on buying products from the US.
According to a report from the Southern China Morning Post, the urinal in question is located in one of ZTE’s offices in Shenzhen, China and is made by New Jersey-based plumbing manufacturer American Standard. The fixture currently sits unusable with a note above it stating that it can’t be fixed.
The image of the urinal first surfaced on Weibo, a popular Chinese microblogging site with 411 million active monthly users. The Southern China Morning Post confirmed the authenticity of the image and the accompanying note with a ZTE employee.
According to Abacus, a technology publication based in Hong Kong, the note above the busted urinal reads:
Our company is now subject to the export ban posed by the US government. Since this bathroom appliance is a product of American Standard, we can’t procure the spare parts for repair due to the export ban. When the export ban is lifted, we promise to get the parts, repair it, and resume operation at once. We regret any inconvenience this may have caused.
The situation is surely a problem for those with a full bladder working in the ZTE offices but it also goes to show just how fucked up and confusing the entire situation between the US government and ZTE is, as none of the parties appear entirely clear on where they stand at this point.
This all started when ZTE was caught violating sanctions and selling products to North Korea and Iran. The company was fined for that infraction, but the situation snowballed when intelligence agencies started flagging potential security concerns, claiming ZTE and other Chinese manufacturers may use their technology to spy on people on behalf of the Chinese government.
Given the ongoing issues with ZTE, the Trump administration’s Commerce Department issued a seven-year export ban that prevented ZTE from purchasing parts from American companies. That effectively killed the company, as ZTE announced it would cease business operations in response to the new restrictions.
Then, seemingly out of nowhere—though apparently prompted by a direct plea from Chinese leader Xi Jinping—Trump opted to help revive the company by lifting the export ban and instead imposing a $1 billion fine, which the company paid this week. Lawmakers in the US pissed off by the sudden about-face (conveniently timed to Trump’s daughter receiving seven new trademarks in China) have worked to reinstate the ban and managed to sneak a provision to do so into the Senate’s version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
So now no one seems to have any idea what is going on. The ban was in place, then lifted, and now is tentatively back on unless Trump chooses to veto the NDAA when it makes it to his desk. Is the ban back? Is there a small window in which ZTE can get the parts it needs to fix the broken urinal? Will anyone in the office be allowed to pee again? Find out next time on the latest episode the Most Incompetent White House.