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China-Hungary ties: Historic state visit cements enduring friendship

Navracsics Tibor

China-Hungary ties: Historic state visit cements enduring friendship

Editor's note: Decision Makers is a global platform for decision makers to share their insights on events shaping today's world. Navracsics Tibor is Hungary's Minister of Public Administration and Regional Development. The article reflects the author's opinions and not necessarily the views of CGTN.

Seventy-five years ago, just five days after the founding of the People's Republic of China on October 6, 1949, Hungary and China established diplomatic relations, with Hungary among the first nations to recognize and establish ties with the new republic. This year marks the 75th anniversary of this diplomatic milestone. Chinese President Xi Jinping is currently on a state visit to Hungary at the invitation of Hungarian leaders. This historic state visit further strengthens the enduring friendship and ongoing cooperation between the two nations, giving a push for future bilateral relations.

During the state visit, we anticipate the signing of 16 bilateral agreements and memorandum of understanding (MoU). This signing will not only establish a comprehensive policy framework for future cooperation but also address regional disparities in Hungary.

Hungary joining of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in 2015 makes us the first European nation to join this grand endeavor.

Given China's expertise in developing transport infrastructure and transport networks, Chinese investments are essential for our development proposals. Situated in central Europe, Hungary relies on advanced transportation solutions to bolster its network and address regional disparities, because a robust transport network will link backward regions with more developed areas, hereby enhancing mobility and labor market flexibility.

The construction site of the Hungarian section of the Hungary-Serbia railway, Kunszentmiklos, Hungary, April 18, 2023. /Xinhua
The construction site of the Hungarian section of the Hungary-Serbia railway, Kunszentmiklos, Hungary, April 18, 2023. /Xinhua

The construction site of the Hungarian section of the Hungary-Serbia railway, Kunszentmiklos, Hungary, April 18, 2023. /Xinhua

Given the proximity of central European capitals, fast train connections act as a vital component of an efficient transport network. The Budapest-Belgrade railway serves as a pioneering project, with the potential for expansion to other central European hubs in the future. The BRI not only enhances economic cooperation between Europe and China but also fosters closer ties among nations, peoples and economic centers across the two regions.

Chinese investment holds broad appeal in the region due to the amount of the capital invested in the projects which significantly impact the regional development in Hungary. As an EU member with an open economy, Hungary's strong ties to the European single market drive 80 percent of our product exports there. As the Chinese presence in the Hungarian economy becomes strong, and Chinese companies will benefit from these investments as well.

Notably, the automotive sector hosts one of the largest investments, such as China's leading electric vehicle (EV) manufacturer BYD's investment in southern Hungary. This investment holds particular importance as southern Hungary is among the nation's most backward regions. The Chinese investment prompts further infrastructure development to enhance the region's attractiveness to both local residents and labor forces from neighboring countries like Romania and Serbia.

Beyond economic ties, the cultural connection between Hungary and China remains robust. People-to-people dialogues play a crucial role in strengthening this bond, reinforcing the strategic relationship between Beijing and Budapest.

During my tenure as EU Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport from 2014 to 2019, I was responsible for fostering people-to-people dialogue between the EU and China. Back then, I had the opportunity to visit China and engage with both local and national leaders. We found common ground effortlessly, sharing our emphasis on a strong educational system. This solid educational foundation not only invests in the future but also underscores the potential of culture as a good sector of diplomacy, laying the groundwork for further political and diplomatic endeavors.

Hungary and China share some cultural similarities that deepen our bond. Hungarians usually define themselves as a nation coming from Asia, becoming a European nation and still keeping these origins and roots, which foster a connection with Asian nations in their way of thinking and cultural practices.

For example, unlike many European countries, where Christian names precede family names, Hungarians reverse this order, prioritizing family ties, the group of emotional links, which gives your identity and your personality. This cultural alignment resembles practices in Asian countries, laying a good precondition for building up a very solid friendship.

Hungary anticipates strengthening its ties with China. Beyond economic collaboration, we aim to deepen cultural exchanges and people-to-people dialogues. We welcome future Chinese tourists and students to experience our beautiful and hospitable country firsthand.

(If you want to contribute and have specific expertise, please contact us at opinions@cgtn.com. Follow @thouse_opinions on Twitter to discover the latest commentaries in the CGTN Opinion Section.)

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