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Hungarian handshake: Xi's visit deepens connections in Europe's heartland

Reality Check


Editor's note: Chinese President Xi Jinping is paying a state visit to Hungary, coinciding with the 75th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between the two nations. Xi's visit heralds new opportunities and promises to elevate the relationship to greater levels. To gain deeper insights into this pivotal moment, CGTN's senior international editor Abhishek G. Bhaya spoke with Gladden Pappin, president of the Hungarian Institute of International Affairs in Budapest, and Marian Duris, a foreign policy analyst at the European Parliament in Brussels. The views expressed are their own and not necessarily those of CGTN.

This year marks a poignant milestone in global diplomacy — the 75th anniversary of diplomatic relations between China and Hungary. Established shortly after the Second World War, this enduring relationship has evolved into a complex partnership that transcends the bilateral scope, affecting broader European and global political landscapes. Amidst ongoing geopolitical shifts and heightened China-U.S. tensions, this partnership's significance is more pronounced as Chinese President Xi Jinping made a landmark three-nation European tour. The tour, which includes a crucial stop in Budapest, not only commemorates this historic milestone but also reinforces the deep, multifaceted ties between the two nations.

"It is the 75th anniversary year of the diplomatic relationship between Hungary and China, which really began to be enriched about 10 years ago with the launch of Hungary's Eastern Opening Policy under Prime Minister Viktor Orbán," noted Gladden Pappin, president of the Hungarian Institute of International Affairs in Budapest, reflecting on the growth and depth of China-Hungary partnership. Orbán's policy marked the start of heightened cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), attracting increasing levels of Chinese investment and fostering a closer exchange on various levels, explained the Hungarian expert.

Pappin elaborated on the pivotal projects underscoring this cooperation, particularly the Budapest-Belgrade railway. This project exemplifies the strategic infrastructural developments that are key to this partnership. "Hungary was the first European country to join the Belt and Road Initiative. The principal project that Hungary is a part of is the Budapest-Belgrade railway. Its execution is already underway and is expected to be completed in the next couple of years," Pappin noted. This railway is anticipated to have substantial economic impacts on the region, enhancing transportation links all the way to Piraeus port in Greece, and further knitting together various elements of Balkans infrastructure.

Marian Duris, a foreign policy analyst at the European Parliament in Brussels, also highlighted the stability and depth of the Hungary-China relationship. "Hungary and China have their ties with its highs and lows. And with Mr. Orbán and his government, this relationship is quite stable, I would say," he remarked. Duris views the significance of President Xi's visit as a reaffirmation of the long-term, friendly relations between the two countries.

The economic implications of the Hungary-China partnership, especially under the BRI, are vast, with Hungary aiming to become a logistical and transportation hub in Central and Eastern Europe. Duris opined that the BRI is a substantial geostrategic and geopolitical project, not only for Hungary but for the entire Central European region. "Many countries see it as one of these opportunities, and I would say it's an opportunity not only for Hungary, which accepted this chance, but for Central Europe as well," he said.

Pappin also pointed out the broader scope of Hungarian-Chinese economic cooperation, which spans several industries including electric mobility and battery manufacturing. "The Hungarian-Chinese economic cooperation operates on a number of other different levels as well. This is particularly the case in electric mobility, battery manufacturing, and a number of different industries," he stated. Such cooperation is likely to see further advancements after President Xi's visit.

With recent Chinese investments in Hungary, particularly in sectors like electric vehicle manufacturing and battery production, Pappin acknowledged the substantial developments over the past few years. "There's a new manufacturing site that was started in [Miskolc, northeast Hungary] in 2021 by [China's] Nanjing Chervon [Auto Precision Technology Co.], making electric vehicle components. Another recent development was the selection of Szeged, Hungary by [Chinese carmaker] BYD for the location of its first European electric vehicle manufacturing plant," Pappin detailed.

As Europe navigates a delicate geopolitical landscape, the strategic partnership between China and Hungary stands as a testament to the enduring power and potential of diplomatic and economic cooperation. As this historic visit unfolds, it will undoubtedly set the stage for the next chapter in this dynamic international relationship, underscoring the mutual benefits of shared development and cooperation on the global stage.

(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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