- 18 Oct 2023 12:25 PM
- Hungary Matters
During talks with the Chinese president, Orbán thanked his host for China’s “unbroken support” in developing bilateral ties. Orbán, who is in Beijing attending Wednesday’s Belt and Road summit, said his government supported the infrastructure development programme from the very beginning.
“We are convinced this initiative can change the world and the world economy, benefitting more people than ever,” Orbán said.
“China can count on Hungary remaining a part of the initiative, irrespective of political debates in Europe, and pursuing cooperation with Beijing,” Orbán said.
China is Hungary’s largest foreign investor and ninth trading partner. Representatives of 130 countries and a number of international organisations are participating in this year’s Belt and Road summit.
Meeting Orbán, Xi said he was “very glad” to be able to meet “his old friend” again in Beijing, noting a gap in meetings in person due to the pandemic meant that talks on China-Hungary relations and cooperation had taken place over the phone.
Xi Jinping: Orbán Always Regarded Ties With China As Important
Chinese President Xi Jinping said at a meeting with Prime Minister Viktor Orbán on Tuesday that the Hungarian premier had always regarded ties with China as important and had “actively supported” Belt and Road, making “positive contributions” to its “high-quality development”.
He expressed appreciation for Orbán’s participation in the summit for the third time, joining celebrations of the initiative’s 10th anniversary.
Hungary, he said, was among the first countries to recognise and establish diplomatic relations with China, adding that the two countries had a long-storied friendship.
China-Hungary relations “have continuously developed at a high level in recent years, regardless of changes in the international environment,” Xi said.
Noting that China and Hungary will celebrate 75 years since diplomatic ties were established, Xi said they should “seize this opportunity” and take advantage of forward momentum, raising “comprehensive strategic cooperation to a new level”.
Szijjártó Hails Economic Gains of Bolstered Hungary-China Ties
Hungary and China’s strengthened relations “have yielded remarkable economic gains in recent years”, Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó said in Beijing on Tuesday, adding that this also had a positive impact on people’s everyday lives.
Szijjártó spoke after Prime Minister Viktor Orbán discussed bilateral cooperation with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Qiang, according to a ministry statement.
Hungary and China signed a comprehensive strategic partnership agreement six years ago, bolstering their political relations, “which has also yielded extraordinary economic achievements”, the minister said. Chinese investments, he added, had brought advanced technologies to Hungary and created masses of jobs.
Szijjártó said China’s Belt and Road and the Hungarian government’s strategy of opening up to the East complemented each other.
The two countries also developed close cooperation during the pandemic, helping to save lives, he said, noting that Hungary delivered medical equipment to China, while China delivered vaccines to Hungary.
The minister said Xi had made it clear that cooperation between Europe and China should be about relationships rather than hostility, and Orbán reaffirmed that the Chinese president could count on Hungary in this regard.
“In Europe, we also represent a position that is based on rationality with the aim of boosting Chinese-European connectivity and economic cooperation, because it is absolutely clear that European economies can also put Chinese modernisation to their advantage,” Szijjártó said.
China considers Hungary a reliable partner which has always represented “the policy of common sense”, basing its relations on mutual respect, the minister said. “It’s not our job to comment on the internal affairs of other countries such as China,” Szijjártó said.
“Our job isn’t to tell the citizens of other countries, such as the Chinese, how they should live. Let’s leave this to them. Our agenda is limited to the development of bilateral ties, and we don’t concern ourselves with issues that are none of our business.”
“Cooperation is based on mutual respect and focused on shared interests from which we benefit significantly,” he said. Szijjártó said this was something the current government’s and the previous left-wing governments’ foreign policies had in common, noting former Hungarian prime minister Péter Medgyessy’s efforts to boost ties with China.
“If the left-wing parties of today wouldn’t abandon this tradition, then the position that cooperation with China is absolutely in our national interest could easily provide common ground in Hungarian politics,” he said. Meanwhile, Szijjártó said Hungary’s food export licences in China outstripped other central European countries by far.
The talks in Beijing also covered the introduction of so-called regionalisation, which would mean that, for instance, in the event of a bird flu outbreak, import bans would only apply to the area affected by the outbreak rather than the entire country, he said.
Hungary is also in strong position compared with other central European countries when it comes to direct air links with China, Szijjártó said, noting that there are ten weekly direct flights operating between Budapest and various major Chinese cities. This is helping the tourism sector return to pre-pandemic levels of activity, as China returns to being one of Hungary’s top tourism markets in the region, he added.
“Obviously the main economic link between the two countries right now is investments,” Szijjártó said, noting that after 2020, China will again be the top foreign investor in Hungary this year.
He also noted that six of the world’s ten biggest battery producers are Chinese, three of which had made a commitment to Hungary. “This gives us the opportunity to become a leader in the technological revolution that fundamentally impacts the future of the European economy, allowing us to maximise our benefits from it,” he added.
Szijjártó also said he had met several Chinese business executives who had told him of their plans for more investments in Hungary, having heard about the country’s “excellent [business] environment”.
“Not only will the rate of Chinese investments be maintained, it will even increase, enabling us to protect jobs and create new ones in Hungary,” Szijjártó said.