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Tags: hungary | china | xi jinping | viktor orban | conservatives | nato

Hungary's Ties With China Raise Serious Concern

xi jinping shakes hands with viktor orbán
Chinese President Xi Jinping shakes hands with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán before the bilateral meeting of the Second Belt and Road Forum at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, on April 25, 2019. (Andrea Verdelli/Getty Images)

By    |   Thursday, 27 October 2022 08:49 PM EDT

Hungary has quietly become China's strongest ally in Europe, a development that has raised serious concerns among conservatives and others in the U.S.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, who has been applauded by many conservatives in the U.S., has also drawn fire recently for taking a sympathetic position in favor of Moscow after President Vladimir Putin launched his brutal war on Ukraine.

The Orban government has also aligned closely with another U.S. and NATO adversary, China.

During an interview with Fox News, host Tucker Carlson asked Orbán about Chinese President Xi Jinping, a man Carlson said "murdered many of his political opponents."

Orbán deflected and quickly changed the subject.

But American Enterprise Institute scholar Dalibor Rohac describes the Orban relationship with communist China as both real and a "paradox."

"Despite his status as the former president's best friend in Europe, the Hungarian prime minister has also relentlessly pursued deeper economic and political ties with China, the country Trump himself identified as America's main geopolitical foe," Rohac wrote.

Indeed, in 2015 Hungary become the first European signatory to China's Belt and Road Initiative, Xi Jinping's effort to spread his country's economic and political power through trade and infrastructure deals.

Orbán, in turn, has said Hungary remains a "pillar" of Belt and Road.

At the same time Hungary has been embracing the Xi government, it has looked away from China's numerous human rights abuses.

Last year, Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó denounced EU sanctions aimed at Beijing's genocide of its Xinjiang region Uyghur population, calling them "pointless, self-aggrandizing, and harmful."

Hungary has taken a similar position vis-à-vis Western sanctions against Russia in the wake of its war on Ukraine.

Hungary was the only EU member nation that refused to support punitive measures against the Chinese Communist Party for its human rights abuses in Hong Kong.

In addition, Hungary has repeatedly entered into commercial and financial arrangements with China, strengthening ties between the two nations.

A partial list includes:

  • Hungary was one of the only European countries that purchased China's ineffective Sinopharm vaccine — reportedly five million doses at $36 each.
  • China loaned Hungary $1.9 billion in 2020 to build the Budapest-Belgrade railway, connecting the Hungarian capital with that of Serbia.
  • One year later Orbán signed an agreement with China to open a campus of the Shanghai-based Fudan University in Budapest by 2024, the first member state of the EU to do so.
  • Hungary was the only EU member nation that refused to join an initiative promoted by then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo aimed at dissuading Central and Eastern Europe from using Huawei to build its 5G network.

At the time, Pompeo said, "What is imperative is that we share with them the things we know about the risks that Huawei's presence in their networks present," including "the risk that China will use this in a way that is not in the best interest of Hungary."

As President Xi has moved to consolidate power in China, Hungary has continued to strengthen its relationship with Beijing, putting its foreign policy at odds with the U.S. and its European allies.

A NATO study group released a report titled "NATO 2030: United For a New Era" in November 2020 that addressed a possible threat from China.

"NATO must devote much more time, political resources, and action to the security challenges posed by China—based on an assessment of its national capabilities, economic heft, and the stated ideological goals of its leaders," the report said.

It continued that NATO "must expand efforts to assess the implications of China's technological development and monitor and defend against any Chinese activities that could impact collective defense, military readiness or resilience in the Supreme Allied Commander Europe's (SACEUR) Area of Responsibility."

The NATO position has put Hungary — a NATO member — in an unusual position.

The pro-Chinese stance has upset even some conservatives in Hungary, where the matter became a campaign issue during Orbán's reelection campaign last year.

"The Hungarian government is now silent about such China-related controversial issues and is trying to emphasize the bright side of [China-Hungary] ties, like the amount of Chinese investment flowing into the country," Tamás Matura, an assistant professor at Corvinus University of Budapest, told Radio Free Europe during the election period.

The decision of the Orbán government to open up the Fudan campus in Budapest became particularly controversial, drawing more than 10,000 protesters on to the streets of the capital.

Int August, Tom Rogan, a national security analyst for the conservative Washington Examiner, sharply criticized Orbán for his coziness with Beijing while courting conservatives in the U.S.

"On return for his political support for China in European Union and NATO policy meetings, and his silence over Chinese human rights and militarism, Orban has earned China's economic patronage," Rogan wrote.

Rogan pointed out that when Orbán spoke to CPAC in Dallas this past August, he used his speech to "warn American conservatives that a new generation of communists threaten their interests."

Calling this comment "impressive hypocrisy," Rogan noted Orbán's speech "rings a little hollow coming as it does from the very same leader who has welcomed a $1.5 billion campus of Fudan University, an ideological citadel of the Chinese Communist Party, to his own capital city."

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Hungary has quietly become China's strongest ally in Europe, a development that has raised serious concerns among conservatives and others in the U.S.
hungary, china, xi jinping, viktor orban, conservatives, nato
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2022-49-27
Thursday, 27 October 2022 08:49 PM
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