Blocking only Huawei, according to government officials, would simply result in capital, personnel and know-how shifting to another Chinese company.
In commercial terms, the effect of the executive order on Huawei and ZTE is likely to be small. Large American cellular operators, such as AT&T and Verizon, have been effectively banned from buying from the Chinese vendors since a 2012 congressional report said that they could not be trusted to be free of interference from Beijing. That has left Huawei and ZTE with small, regional wireless operators as the only customers for their network equipment in the United States, despite being a large presence in Europe, Asia and elsewhere.
But the executive order has symbolic value amid the Trump administration’s broad and aggressive campaign to stymie the Chinese telecom equipment makers.
A Huawei spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Addressing reports of the executive order, a spokeswoman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, Hua Chunying, said in December, “Despite not having any evidence, certain countries have politicized the normal exchanges and cooperation in science and technology.”
Ms. Hua added, “This actually amounts to shutting their own door to openness, progress and fairness.”
American officials had mulled a broader ban that would also prevent the export of American technology to Huawei and other Chinese telecom companies.
Such a ban could have set back Huawei’s ability to compete for 5G contracts at a critical time. In the next six months, many allies and partners will be deciding what technology to use in their next-generation networks, American officials said.
But the White House rejected the export ban, officials said, believing that it would hurt American companies who depend on sales to Chinese companies, threaten high-paying jobs and simply force Huawei and other companies to make their own competing components on a faster timetable.