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Xi Jinping Celebrates China-Hungary Relations in First State Visit to Budapest

Chinese Leader Xi Jinping arrived in Hungary for his state visit on May 8. He was greeted at Budapest’s international airport by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and his wife, Aniko Levai. The visit is occurring on the 75th anniversary of their diplomatic relations. Upon his arrival Xi issued a statement, concluding: “Through vigorous and determined endeavors, we will work together toward the goal of building a community with a shared future for mankind, and make our due contribution to world peace, stability, development and prosperity. I am confident that, with the two sides’ concerted efforts, this visit will be a complete success and usher in an even brighter future of the China-Hungary relationship.”

The Chinese President said “This year marks the 75th anniversary of our diplomatic ties, bringing an important opportunity for the growth of bilateral relations. I look forward to meeting with President Tamás Sulyok, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and other Hungarian leaders. We will jointly outline a new blueprint for cooperation and development, with a view to steering the China-Hungary relationship forward in big strides and taking it to a higher level.”

This is the eighth meeting between Orbán and Xi, and Xi’s first state visit to Budapest. Hungary was the first EU member nation that joined the Belt and Road Initiative, which Xi had launched in September 2013, and Hungary is the EU nation that enjoys the closest relations with China.

On May 9 Hungarian President Tamás Sulyok received Xi in an opulent courtyard of Budapest’s Buda Castle. Numerous Chinese and Hungarian officials attended the ceremony, including Prime Minister Orbán.

After their meeting on May 9, Orbán said: ‘'Twenty years ago [on the occasion of the last visit to Hungary of a Chinese President, Hu Jintao] the world had ‘a single center,’ while today the new world order ‘has several centers, one of which is China.’” Orbán added it was “a great honor” to host Xi in Budapest.'’ Orbán emphasized that, for two years, “we have been living in the shadow of a war [in neighboring Ukraine] and that the risk of a world conflict has never been greater than today. We have quadrupled the value of our economic relations.” Last year, three-quarters of all foreign investments in Hungary were Chinese. The value of Beijing’s investments in Hungarian territory amounts to “6,400 billion forints,” or €16.4 billion euros, and employs “tens of thousands of people.”

During the visit, they signed 18 cooperation agreements, spanning various fields, including electric mobility, the railway sector, information technologies, investment cooperation and Hungarian agri-food exports in China. “The cooperation also extends to the nuclear industry,” Orbán said. “It is a great honor that China has invited us to participate in the modernization of its economy, and it is a great honor that China is willing to participate in the development and modernization of Hungary.”

Orbán said that Hungary has always held China in great respect, and that the relationship today was even more important “when war is in our midst.” He underlined the danger of the war in neighboring Ukraine, stressing that there will be no solution on the battlefield. “The only solution is peace talks, but our voice has been a lonely voice,” he said. He stressed that Hungary and China had raised their cooperation to the level of “all-weather comprehensive strategic cooperation,” referring to their extensive Joint Statement. He said that Hungary stood firmly in the Belt and Road Initiative, and in addition to the Belgrade-Budapest high-speed rail now under construction, he hoped for other transportation projects under the BRI.

There will also be major exchanges in science and technology and in the expansion of nuclear energy. Hungary has been engaged in nuclear energy for 50 years, and Orbán said that in the coming decades it would be getting 60-70% of its energy from nuclear. China is already investing heavily in Hungary, building a factory for EV batteries, and there is discussion of placing BYD car production factories in Hungary as well

Conveying his pleasure to be in Hungary, Xi specified in their joint press conference that the two countries are entering into a strategic partnership that will direct both along a path of prosperity. Beijing appreciates that Budapest supports the one-China policy, and it supports Hungary in pursuing its national interests. “We both agree that the Belt and Road Initiative and Hungary’s Eastern Opening strategy are highly compatible,” he asserted. “China values its comprehensive strategic partnership with the European Union, and views Europe as an important pole in a multipolar world and a key partner in China’s bid to advance Chinese modernization. China supports Hungary in playing a bigger role in the EU and promoting greater progress in China-EU relations,” he said.