Watch: Xi Jinping Arrives in Budapest, First Chinese Head of State to Visit in 20 Years

  • 10 May 2024 7:47 AM
  • Hungary Today
Watch: Xi Jinping Arrives in Budapest, First Chinese Head of State to Visit in 20 Years
Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in Budapest on Wednesday for what can be described as a historic visit, marking the first time a Chinese head of state has visited Hungary in 20 years.

Earlier, Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó announced that the Chinese President’s delegation would include Foreign Minister Wang Yi, Finance Minister Lan Foan, and Trade Minister Wang Wentao.

Sixteen agreements are expected to be signed during the three-day visit, with two others still under discussion between the parties.

In a personal letter of greeting to the Hungarians published by Magyar Nemzet, President Xi Jinping emphasized the longstanding friendship between the Chinese and Hungarian people, recalling the establishment of diplomatic relations 75 years ago. He underscored the principles of mutual respect, equal treatment, mutual benefit, and win-win cooperation, highlighting Hungary’s significance as an important trading partner and the main destination for Chinese investment in Central and Eastern Europe.

President Xi expressed hope that his visit would further deepen the traditional friendship and cooperation between the two countries, elevating their comprehensive strategic partnership to new heights.

Earlier in the week, Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó emphasized the importance of investment and trade with the East for competitiveness and growth during a speech in the capital of Uzbekistan, Tashkent. He noted the shifting economic landscape, with major growth increasingly occurring in the East rather than the West, citing China as a prime example.

Minister Szijjártó stressed the need for effective cooperation with Eastern partners, particularly China, as crucial for maintaining competitiveness and fostering growth.

He cautioned against bloc formation and underscored the importance of connectivity in the face of global challenges.

Péter Szijjártó highlighted the critical situation in Europe, citing war, high inflation, and other challenges exacerbated by poor economic decisions, sanctions, and embargoes. He emphasized the growing significance of interdependence and civilized East-West cooperation, pointing out that major economic growth now occurs in the East.

The Minister reiterated Hungary’s longstanding cooperation with Central Asia, emphasizing its early recognition of the region’s importance despite initial criticism. Overall, he emphasized the importance of fostering robust cooperation with Eastern partners in navigating global challenges and ensuring Hungary’s competitiveness and growth.

Xi Received with Military Honours

Chinese President Xi Jinping and his spouse were received with military honours in Buda Castle on Thursday.

Hungarian President Tamás Sulyok, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and their wives greeted Xi and Peng Liyuan ahead of a military ceremony on the second day of their official visit to Hungary.

The Chinese president, during a plenary discussion with Sulyok at the presidential Sándor Palace afterwards, said cooperation between China and Hungary was based on mutual respect and trust.

“You know who your true friends are in times of hardship,” Xi said, quoting a Hungarian proverb. Sulyok quoted Hungary’s Fundamental Law, saying Hungary respected other peoples’ freedom and culture and strove for cooperation with all nations of the world. He said Hungary continued to work to become a bridgehead between East and West.

Before their meeting, Xi and Sulyok then viewed a ceremonial parade of the Ceremonial Battalion of the Hungarian Armed Forces, the National Ceremonial Equestrian Unit and the Count Ferenc Nádasdy Hussar Regiment.

Peng attended cultural programmes in the St Stephen Hall with First Lady Zsuzsanna Nagy. Xi will stay in Hungary until Friday, on an official visit marking the 75th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

Xi Jinping: China, Hungary 'Have Always Been Friends'

China and Hungary “have always been friends”, but now the two countries’ ties are the best they have ever been, President Xi Jinping said in Budapest on Thursday in a joint press statement with Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.

During his meeting with Orbán, he said they agreed on the enduring mutual trust and friendship that characterised relations between the two countries as well as their desire to establish mutually beneficial cooperation.

Bilateral ties “must be further developed”, Xi said, noting that they had formulated a statement on a “comprehensive strategic partnership”. “Mutual political trust has created the bedrock for strengthening Chinese-Hungarian relations,” he said.

Meanwhile, Xi said China highly valued Hungary’s “firm commitment to the One China policy”, and he pledged to provide China’s steady support for Hungary’s economic development. He added that both countries planned to deepen their economic, commercial and financial cooperation in the future.

Xi noted that this year Hungary and China are celebrating the 75th anniversary of diplomatic relations, saying both had followed the path of mutual respect, equality and mutual benefits, and ties were moving forward in the right direction.

Cooperation would be set on a “golden path” in order to reach “greater goals”, he said, adding that development of the two countries could now gain new momentum. He also noted “high-level, close cooperation” and “strengthened dialogue” between the two governments, legislatures and political parties, adding that they shared experiences and supported one another’s core interests.

Xi said the Belt and Road initiative and Hungary’s Eastern opening strategy were compatible, enabling the deepening of economic trade and financial-economic cooperation.

He referred to the Budapest-Belgrade rail line and broadening cooperation in emerging sectors. Both countries, he said, were committed to supporting the teaching of the other country’s language, utilising their cultural centres and strengthening cooperation in sports and the media. He said there would be more direct flights and better conditions for person-to-person relations between Hungarians and Chinese.

The Chinese president said both Hungary and China saw cooperation between China and the central and eastern European countries as based on extensive consultation, and China saw Europe as an important pole and supported Hungary in playing a bigger role in the EU. Xi said China’s modernisation extended huge opportunities to the world and it wanted to share prosperity with Hungary.

The Chinese and Hungarian governments and delegation members signed economic, financial, agricultural, media and news agency as well as cultural cooperation agreements and declarations of intent.

Sulyok Receives Xi

Presidents Tamás Sulyok and Xi Jinping agreed that good political ties and mutual trust were at the heart of expanding economic, trade, investment and personal relations.

The leaders said the upgrade of the Budapest-Belgrade railway line and the direct flights between Budapest and seven Chinese cities were implementations in practice of those principles.

Hungary is also a beneficiary of China’s visa exemption programme, they noted. Ties in education resulted in 2,481 Chinese students studying in Hungary in the 2022/2023 academic year, showing the growing popularity of Hungarian universities among them, they said.

Hungary is also the only country in Europe to have a bilingual Hungarian-Chinese elementary and secondary school where the pupils are taught subjects in both languages, and Confucius Institutes operate in Hungary’s five largest cities, they added.

Meanwhile, Hungary has taken large strides to support the green transition of the car manufacturing industry. Chinese battery manufacturing giant BYD’s decision to build its first European plant in Hungary would add further momentum to that process, they said. And CATL’s 3,000 billion forint (EUR 7.7m) investment in Debrecen, in eastern Hungary, is the country’s largest green-field investment, they noted.

At the meeting, Xi expressed thanks for the “warm welcome and expressions of true friendship”. He wished Hungary every success during its upcoming EU presidency, adding that he hoped the two countries’ ties would be further deepened and pragmatic cooperation expanded.

Xi invited Sulyok to Beijing, and the Hungarian president accepted his invitation.

At a government press briefing, the head of the Prime Minister’s Office, Gergely Gulyás, said Xi’s decision to visit Paris and Budapest was a sign of Hungary’s growing weight in the world. He slammed international media for employing “double standards” by “painting the visit to Paris as right and that one to Budapest as wrong”.

Gulyás noted that Chinese GDP, which was 20 years ago one-fifth of the EU’s, has surpassed that of the entire bloc by now, and this showed the EU’s slipping competitiveness and China’s “enormous journey in economic growth”.

In 2004 only fifteen of the world’s largest companies were Chinese; that number grew to 135 by 2023, Gulyás said.

The country single-handedly produces 18% of the world’s GDP, he said. Gulyás said it was in Hungary’s interest to attract as much Chinese investment as possible. Hungary pursues the principle of connectivity in international cooperation, and the government would like to be able to conclude mutually beneficial deals on the highest-quality products possible, he said.

While four-fifths of Hungary’s investments come from Europe, it welcomes companies from all over the world, including the US and South Korea, he said, adding that all investments that created jobs and brought capital to the country were in Hungary’s interest and contributed to growing wages here.

In connection with Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit, Gulyás said China’s economy is the world’s second largest, and it had a good chance of becoming its strongest within a decade. “China needs markets … and it is interested in having as many capital investments as possible in EU countries. Adopting an anti-China position deteriorates the EU’s competitiveness,” he said, noting that China’s economy in the past two years grew by 700%, as against 80% in the US and 30% in the EU.

Asked whether Chinese companies would contribute to the Paks nuclear power plant expansion, he noted that besides the Russian contractor, US, German, and French companies were involved in the project, and China was not expected to have any significant role.

Asked about the issue of freedom of speech in connection with an incident involving “Chinese people wearing red caps” who had questioned an opposition Momentum MP regarding an EU flag as well as the concealment of a Tibetan flag during the presidential visit, Gulyás said an investigation should first ascertain “if such things in fact happened”, adding that only Hungarian police had such powers in the country.

Regarding the war in Ukraine and China’s related peace plan, he said Hungary alone could not establish peace, and the US and China would have an important say.​​​​​​​

MTI Photo: Szilárd Koszticsák


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