Huawei and ZTE spent significantly less on lobbying in 2017 compared with previous years, in what appears to be a change in strategy as Chinese companies face increasing political scrutiny in the US.

In a spending disclosure made to the US Senate, Huawei revealed it spent a total of $50,000 on lobbying in 2017, down from $348,500 in 2016 and an even sharper dip from the $1.2 million spent in 2012, the first year it registered for lobbying.

Rival China-based equipment vendor ZTE also reduced its lobbying outlay, albeit not as dramatically, with the company spending $90,000 a quarter between April and December 2017. Between 2014 and 2015, ZTE spent between $130,000 and $240,000 every quarter.

Sign of the times
News of Huawei and ZTE’s reduced spending on advocating their businesses comes at a time when both companies are facing increasing pressure from the US government regarding their ambitions to establish a foothold in the country.

Reuters reported last week US lawmakers had warned operator AT&T and other US companies to cut ties with Huawei, amid national security concerns about Chinese technology companies. AT&T also pulled out of a channel partnership with Huawei earlier this month, apparently due to the same concerns.

Texas congressman Michael Conaway also introduced a bill last week proposing a ban on the US government from using services or equipment made by Huawei or ZTE.

Rational decision
Despite growing anti-Chinese sentiment in the US, as well as the failed partnership with AT&T, Huawei’s head of consumer business Richard Yu still committed to making a success of its US business.

Larry Sabato, a political scientist at the University of Virginia, told Reuters a reduced spend on lobbying also does not necessarily indicate Huawei and ZTE are giving up on pushing their businesses, but rather the strategy reflects a point in time when China is being subjected to negative press globally.

“I think they made a rational decision not to waste their money,” he said: “This is not a good time for any foreign company to make an argument for entry when national security experts disagree.”

Reuters noted Huawei had continued to sponsor telecoms conferences around the world, including the US, as well spend money in other ways it was not required to disclose.

The company is also sponsoring two Norwegian sports teams and providing equipment for the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea.