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Chinese tech firms boost spending on US lobbying

Huawei, ByteDance both increase spending on lobbying in Washington

US and Chinese flags (Getty Images)

US and Chinese flags (Getty Images)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Some of China’s biggest tech names are increasing their lobbying expenditures in hopes of influencing the U.S. government.

Nikkei cited disclosure reports that showed both Huawei Technologies and ByteDance — the developer of TikTok — ramped up lobbying in Washington during the second quarter of this year. The increased spending coincides with President Biden choosing to keep some of the Trump administration's China policies while scrapping others.

Huawei has been spending more in response to Biden’s continuation of sanctions put in place by former President Trump, according to the report. In May, not long after Biden extended Trump’s sanctions, Huawei Senior Vice President Vincent Peng asked the new administration to open talks.

While talks have yet to materialize, Huawei spent more than US$1 million on lobbying in Q2 compared to around US$200,000 in Q1. “Huawei is engaging with a growing number of government relations consultants and lobbyists to help the Biden administration and the company itself develop a deeper mutual understanding,” a source told Nikkei.

Huawei has also reportedly hired Democratic lobbyist Tony Podesta, who has ties to Biden and his administration. It’s unclear if these moves will help sway the Biden administration when it comes to its Huawei policies.

Meanwhile, ByteDance spent US$1.95 million in Q2 compared to US$810,000 in Q1, according to company disclosures. In contrast to Huawei, ByteDance’s position has been more favorable, with Biden signing an executive order in June revoking orders signed by Trump to look into banning TikTok and the WeChat messaging app.

Biden has pledged to ban lobbying on behalf of foreign countries in practice, saying on his presidential campaign website that governments looking to sway Washington’s decision-making should do so through established diplomatic channels, according to Nikkei.

The site also stresses that “any foreign business” hoping to lobby will have to prove that no foreign government “materially owns or control any part of it.” This makes lobbying for Chinese companies in the U.S. problematic, given the close relationship between the public and private sectors in China.