Chinese technology firm ZTE says it has forked over $1 billion to the US government. This is the first step toward ZTE returning to operation after a ban on purchasing US technology in April forced it to partially shut down. However, it's not out of the woods yet as the entire incident has become a political firestorm for the US administration.

ZTE got itself in this situation by failing to comply with all parts of a previous penalty for violation of US sanctions. It paid almost $1 billion for the original slip-up, but the government demanded a further $1 billion to lift the new technology ban. Having paid the fine, ZTE says it will place an additional $400 million in escrow in the coming days, as required by the deal. That's intended as an incentive to ensure ZTE continues complying with the law. If it doesn't slip up, the firm will eventually get that money back.

As the Commerce Department deal seems close to completion, there's still uncertainty over ZTE's future. After President Trump tweeted about ZTE's situation, the deal has been under scrutiny from both parties. Congress may even include sanctions against ZTE in a defense spending bill, which is still making its way through the legislative branch. The bill is considered "must-pass," so including sanctions in the final bill could spell trouble for ZTE.