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In Hungary, Xi Jinping praises an exemplary “strategic partnership” in the EU

Photo: Vivien Cher Benko Agence France-Presse Chinese President Xi Jinping (right) is greeted by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán (left) before a ceremony at Buda Castle in Budapest on Thursday.

Ludovic Ehret – Agence France-Presse and Andras Rostovanyi – Agence France-Presse in Budapest

Published yesterday at 8:24 p.m.

  • Europe

Visiting Hungary, Chinese President Xi Jinping promised Thursday to consolidate already flourishing ties with the central European country, which he said is showing the way to strengthen relations with the European Union (EU).

After France and Serbia, the leader of the Asian superpower completes his first European tour since 2019 in Hungary.

The opportunity for him to praise the “friendly policy” of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and the close bilateral economic cooperation, countering trade disputes with Brussels.

After a meeting with Orbán at his official residence in Budapest, the Chinese president called on Hungary, which will chair the EU in the second half of the year, to play “a more important role” in the “development” of China-European Union relations .

Warm welcome, announcement of 18 contracts and “similar positions” according to Xi Jinping on the global geopolitical order: the two men displayed their closeness, between military ceremony, long discussions and gala dinner.

As if to deceive, the Chinese leader also assured the press that he attached “great importance” to his relations with the EU .

For this visit described as “historic” by Budapest, the capital decorated in the colors of China is under high security and the rare Tibetan flags displayed by demonstrators were carefully hidden from Xi Jinping's view.

“New Heights”

“Chinese-Hungarian relations are at their peak” in 75 years of history, Mr. Xi said, welcoming Budapest’s concern for “independence”.

A nod to the go-it-alone strategy pursued by Viktor Orbán within the EU.

While scrambling with Brussels, the nationalist leader has turned resolutely towards the east in recent years. And when Brussels distanced itself from Beijing, on the contrary strengthened ties, rejecting the ideological confrontation of the “blocs”.

This stay of almost three days is the opportunity to “take our strategic partnership to new heights”, said Xi Jinping, with China having become the largest investor in Hungary last year.

For Viktor Orbán, it is a diplomatic success. The choice made by Xi Jinping to visit Paris and Budapest within the EU “shows the importance that Hungary is taking on the international scene”, believes his chief of staff, Gergely Gulyas.

New projects have been announced, to build rail links, set up an oil pipeline between Hungary and Serbia or even cooperate in the nuclear sector.

All over the country, battery and electric car factories are growing at an impressive speed, with investments of tens of billions of euros.

Enough arouse the concerns of the opposition which denounces the opacity surrounding contracts, the environmental impact of factories and corruption.

Same vision on Ukraine

Welcomed Monday under the gold of the Élysée in Paris, Xi Jinping had “frank” exchanges with the French President, Emmanuel Macron, on China-Europe trade disputes or even Beijing-Moscow links, viewed with suspicion by Westerners against a backdrop of war in Ukraine.

But during this final Hungarian stage which ends on Friday, the media were kept away and angry subjects carefully avoided.

Because Beijing and Budapest are on the same wavelength, pleading for a peaceful settlement in Ukraine while remaining close to the Kremlin.

Hungary, a “lone voice” in the face of the war fever agitating the EU according to Viktor Orbán, “thanked China for its efforts in favor of peace in the region”.

Through this visit, “Xi sends a message to the rest of Europe: this is how China would like to be treated”, comments Xiaoxue Martin, expert at the Dutch institute, for AFP Clingendael.

Near the Carmelite monastery, with a view of the Danube, the prime minister's residence, tourists were surprised by the excitement.

“Ah! The Prince of China is here! », Reacts with a smile an Israeli visitor, disappointed at not being able to take the funicular going up to Buda Castle.

Norbert, a resident of the capital speaking under cover of anonymity, he rails against the links established with “a repressive power which invests in its own interests”.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116