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Global Times – Key to successful China-Hungary relations is mutual respect: foreign minister of Hungary

Editor’s Note:

Chinese President Xi Jinping will pay a state visit to Hungary as part of his three-country European tour in early May. This year marks the 75th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries. How will Xi’s visit boost bilateral ties? As an EU member state, why has Hungary been able to remain steadfast in its approach toward China? Global Times (GT) reporters talked to Péter Szijjártó (Szijjártó), the foreign minister of Hungary, over these issues during his recent visit to Beijing.

GT: What is your expectation of Xi’s visit to Hungary? How will the visit elevate bilateral ties?

Szijjártó: First of all, it’s a great honor that we will celebrate the 75th anniversary of establishment of diplomatic ties between the two countries with a presidential visit. It will also provide useful feedback when it comes to the question as to whether it makes sense to put so much effort and so much energy into improving this relationship. Positive feedback showing that we are on the right track that is very important to us. 

On the other hand, we are working on those economic projects with which we can include substance into this decision of enhancing the level of the cooperation. We have some ideas about new infrastructural development projects which could be part of the Belt and Road Initiative as the reconstruction of the railway line between Budapest and Belgrade has been.

When I discussed this issue with Minister Wang Wentao during my recent visit to China, we talked about working on exporting more Hungarian food industry products and encouraging more Chinese companies to follow the others and invest in Hungary.

It’s moving forward. I see the Chinese-Hungarian cooperation as a success story, which we have to continue. 

GT: What do you think is the key to the successful bilateral relations? What insights can this provide for current international relations?

Szijjártó: We have worked a lot in the recent 15 years on the significant improvement of our bilateral relationship. Both China and Hungary have taken a lot of profit out of this cooperation. China became the No.1 investor last year in Hungary, contributing a lot to the development of our national economy to make sure that economic growth takes place in an accelerated manner.

In the meantime, Chinese companies enjoy the best European investment environment in Hungary. This cooperation between the PRC and Hungary proves that China offers a huge chance for European countries. Cooperation with China can be very profitable, helpful and useful. Our relationship proves that those who say that China is a threat to Europe and the European economy are simply wrong.

The key to the success of this bilateral relationship is mutual respect. We have always shown respect to each other. We have never had any kind of intention to interfere into each other’s domestic issues. China has never attached any political expectation to economic decisions. 

We do believe that mutual respect is now missing from international politics. Many countries love judging others, criticizing others, and love thinking that they know better and they know what is good for the people of another country. This is really frustrating to be honest. This mutual respect is a really strong and stable basis for a very successful cooperation.

GT: Within the EU, Hungary often faces pressure due to its strong relationship with China but it has not changed its policy. Why has Hungary been able to remain steadfast in its approach?

Szijjártó: Because we never make any compromise when it comes to national interest. Our national interest is to have a good, beneficial, active, rich cooperation with China. The reason we can stick to this position is that there’s a big difference between us and all other European Union member states, and this big difference is political stability. In Hungary, we have been in office for 14 years now. We have always been a one-party government, no pressure of coalition, with two thirds of the seats in parliament. So this helps when it comes to acting according to the national interest, because there are those governments which are based on very colorful coalitions with the very diverging views among the participating parties. There are countries with minority governments. There are countries where the government has a very small margin of majority in the parliament. Putting influence and putting pressure on those governments which are more fragile is easier. But if you have a super stable government for 14 years – no coalition partner, two thirds of the seats, strong and popular prime minister, public support in the background, then no pressure can be successful.

The Hungarian economy has taken a lot of profit out of cooperating with China. Why would we want to lose such an important opportunity for the future? Who would replace it? Who would offer the same? We always tell Western European and American colleagues when they criticize this or that economic action of ours. “Guys, please come. Offer the same or offer better, and then we will choose the better offer, obviously.” But since China is the only one putting the offer on the table, then why should we be criticized for taking the offer?

GT: The EU is investigating into China’s EVs. Hungary is a major destination for Chinese investment in EV in Europe. What is your view on the EU’s actions and China’s exports of EVs to Europe?

Szijjártó: While we understand the automotive industry has been undergoing a revolutionary change – the automotive industry is switching from the traditional power to electric – so this is decided already. So the future success of the European economy mainly depends on the success of the electric mobility strategy of the European car manufacturers. These European car manufacturers have Chinese suppliers, whether Western European politicians like it or not, this is reality. And they have Chinese suppliers for critical parts of the new electric car, for example, the electric battery. 

Therefore, we think it is really dangerous and harmful for the European economy that the European Union would want to launch a procedure against China on the field of the electric automotive industry. We should make sure that the European companies can work together and cooperate with the Chinese. 

Like in Hungary, we have become the meeting point between East and West. We have become the meeting point of the German and Chinese economies. The German automotive companies and their Chinese suppliers are working together in Hungary very successfully. Therefore we don’t like this approach of Europe. We will definitely be against any kind of procedure to be launched against China and the Chinese electric automotive industry.

GT: As Hungary is taking over the presidency of the Council of the EU, how does it plan to influence the EU’s policy toward China?

Szijjártó: We have a good example and we have lots of experience, which has been very positive. And politics is a job which is based on experience. We will be able to share with our European colleagues in a very credible manner how helpful, how useful and how profitable it can be to work together with China. So instead of representing a hostile approach, Europe should represent an open approach in this regard. We will be very much engaged when it comes to improving the relationship between the EU and China. I’m pretty sure that throughout our presidency, it will be much clearer for all stakeholders and all participants in Europe. It will be clearer for everyone that it makes sense to build this relationship between Europe and China and not destroy it.

There’s a kind of hypocrisy. Some countries, especially big countries, have been criticizing us for cooperating with China. They envy this kind of cooperation. They would have loved to be part of this cooperation. They should invest political effort, energy and intellectual efforts in order to build up that partnership with China.

I think everyone knows deeply in his or her heart that China offers a huge chance, but many of them are simply not brave enough to speak about it openly, because the expectation of the liberal mainstream is somewhat totally different. The expectation of liberal mainstream is that everybody says that China is dangerous, but it’s not. So instead of acting upon the false expectation of the liberal mainstream, Europe should work on verifying its interest and building a tight cooperation with China.

GT: Compared to the EU, Hungary has shown a different attitude toward the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict. Recently, you said in an interview that many European leaders are experiencing a war psychosis and a kind of world war preparation in ongoing within Europe and the North Atlantic alliance. How do you see the prospect of the Russia-Ukraine conflict?

Szijjártó: Almost everything depends on who is going to win the US presidential elections in November. If Trump wins, then this war will come to an end very quickly. If he does not win, we have to adjust ourselves to the reality that this war is going to last a long time. The problem is that there are people dying in this war on a daily basis. Major demolishing of Ukraine has been taking place on a daily basis. The sooner this war comes to an end, the less people will die. 

It’s obvious that those who were hoping for a battlefield solution in favor of Ukraine have totally failed. They turned out to be wrong because Ukraine is definitely not going to win this war on the battlefield. In the meantime, Russia cannot win big either, because of the huge volume of Western weapon deliveries. If none of the two participants or stakeholders can win big, then negotiations will take place. So the question is not whether negotiations will take, but when. The sooner, the better. Therefore, we have never delivered any weapons to Ukraine, because we do believe that the weapon deliveries do contribute to the prolongation of the war and bring the risk of escalation forward. That has to be avoided. We are in favor of a ceasefire, and we are in favor of peace talks.


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