As I’m looking through my files it seems as if almost nothing has happened in Chinese-Hungarian relations in the last six months or so. It was in mid-November 2011 that Tamás Fellegi made his last trip to China where he negotiated with Chinese businessmen and bank presidents. After that not much could be heard about major Chinese investments in Hungary. The only things I can recall are the establishment of one medium-sized Chinese-owned factory and the setting up of a Chinese Department at the University of Miskolc.
But now China is back in the Hungarian media with a vengeance. In two days MTI released five reports on the newly blossoming Hungarian-Chinese relations. MTI even managed to report on a Le Figaro article on East-Central Europe’s special role in Chinese-European relations. They also found an article in China Daily that specifically noted that “Beijing has confidence in Hungary’s economic growth.”
Looking at the Poland-Central Europe-China trade summit in Warsaw from the perspective of Budapest one would think that Viktor Orbán was the leading light of these negotiations. It is true that MTI mentioned that the Hungarian prime minister attended a meeting where “other heads of East European governments were also present” but they neglect to say that it was a gathering of sixteen prime ministers in addition to the Chinese premier Wen Jiabao.
It was a large affair with three hundred Chinese firms in tow and 450 companies from across the region, including 300 from Poland. From these numbers it is clear that the main player was the host country, which has the largest economy in the area.
Did Viktor Orbán have any role in organizing this summit? Perhaps. The Hungarian prime minister often talked in the past about a kind of mini-union in Eastern Europe that would include Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, and Croatia. This “axis,” as he called the alliance of these countries, was viewed as a cooperative framework for developing the region’s economies. For example, he often talked about building out the infrastructure of the region from the Baltic to the Adriatic. It seems that China is willing to be a major player here, agreeing to set up a $10 billion credit line to support infrastructure and green-economy projects in the area.
It is also true that Orbán was interested in China as an economic player, but he envisaged Chinese economic penetration via Hungary and wasn’t thinking in terms of the whole region of sixteen countries. He wanted to be the chief player and not just one of many.
The current trade summit is different both in scope and in geography from Orbán’s earlier ideas although it definitely fits in with his conviction that Europe is declining and needs the infusion of Chinese capital. Orbán’s speech at the round-table discussion emphasized the indebtedness of Europe, which can be remedied with the assistance of China. In his usual overstatement of facts he claimed that Europe’s current problems can be compared only to the rebuilding of the continent after World War II. “In a new world new allies are born.”
As I see it, the Chinese have something else in mind. Although Wen said that “we have to face [the challenge of an uncertain global economic recovery] together,” the Chinese are seeking investment and bilateral foreign trade opportunities. Other than through their contributions to the IMF, they are not helping European governments free themselves of their indebtedness. As far as I know, they are not big players in Hungarian government bond placements.
As for allies, sometimes Orbán doesn’t seem to be aware of the meaning of words. The last time when Wen Jiabao visited Hungary he talked about a “strategic alliance” between China and Hungary that raised quite a few eyebrows.
Orbán also met Wen Jiabao alone, and after the meeting he announced that in the future “China might become the most important actor in Hungary’s economic life.” Considering that currently Hungary’s trade is almost exclusively with the countries of the European Union, such a turnabout would be dramatic indeed. According to reports, China wants to double its bilateral foreign trade with the region in five years. That projection is unlikely to propel China to the top spot among Hungary’s trading partners.
Last night Péter Szijjártó informed the Hungarian public on MTV’s Az Este (The Evening) about the events and the accomplishments of the Warsaw trade talks. He also announced that Viktor Orbán will be visiting Beijing in the second half of the year. This morning the prime minister reaffirmed that the Chinese are expecting him in Beijing. He added that he has been working on closer Chinese-Hungarian relations for years. “We are close to the fruition of our labor.” He added that Li Kequiang, the deputy prime minister of China, will be visiting Hungary next week when further economic agreements will be signed. He didn’t elaborate on the nature of the agreements.
Orbán’s critics often pointed out that he first tried to attract Russia as a major player in the Hungarian economy, but it didn’t matter how often Tamás Fellegi visited Moscow the only result was that the Russians managed to get rid of their MOL shares at a very good price. Then came the China card. Several trips to Beijing resulted, until now at least, in very little. There were trips to the United Arab Emirates and Dubai but the emissaries came back empty-handed.
This time around there is perhaps more of a chance of success, although it will be difficult for Hungary to compete with countries like Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovenia or even Slovakia for investment opportunities. But even if more Chinese investment arrives in the region it is unlikely that it can trump investments from the West. Yet, it is quite clear from what Orbán had to say in Warsaw and this morning in Budapest that this is what he would like to see happen.
I guess trouble brewing in China. Remember what happened just when he visited Mubarak? Maybe finally China will get rid of communism?
Certainly Orban does not mind communist dictators and also his fan club members love them. Orban and his fans only have problem with those Hungarian “communists” (not that they are, but this is how they like to call them) who are more intelligent, much smarter and could lead the country to better position if the Orban Club would stop the baseless defamations. China certainly does not fit the bill, as they are real communists, and they do not want to run to replace Orban. The Orban Club just serves them right!
As on analyst pointed out, Hungary is not a gate way to the EU as has no ports (Poland looks better in that regard) and Hungary is in the same game as China, exporting to other countries. So in that respect, China is a competitor.
have you guys seen this?
Graffiti in Budapest:
It reads, roughly: Orban Viktor, you are not the solution, but the problem.
You know how they say, ‘It takes two to tango’? Well, for the Hungarian “communist” concept to work someone has to be on the receiving end to it.
I think all Hungarians should one day take a look in the mirror and ask themselves some hard questions on what really is going on instead of accepting it for being the ‘truth’ without any sort of evaluation.
Thank you for the link.
I often wonder how China will handle its export business in the future. Right now almost everything “cheap” and “plastic” you see is made in PRC – whether you are in Hungary, Germany or the USA (Walmart is really horrible – all that plastic crap …).
Now of course China can produce quality products (like ipads, computers etc) – but these are more expensive …
If they continue like this, no real production will be left in all of Europe – anyone remember how “cheap” production was first moved to Hungary, Poland etc, then to Romania and now it’s done in Vietnam, China, Korea …
Now what will that mean for economies like Hungary – they won’t be able compete any more ?
What kind of products should they produce ?
Don’t tell me the secret is agriculture! You don’t make a lot of money there.
So I really don’t think Hungary will profit much from the “Chinese Connection” …
For those of you who are not Hungarians, let me illustrate the ruling passion of these people with a little story, in the past, applicable to Balkan countries (but nowadays, Hungarians say, ‘well, we’re Balkan, too”):
Jancsi and Pista are two neighbors, both farmers. Pista has a cow and Jancsi does not, so everyday, at the end of the day, Jancsi goes into his little barn and prays to God: ” Please, God, make me equal with Pista”. This goes on for a couple of months and finally one night God’s voice booms out in the rafters, “I have heard your prayers. What is it you wish?” Jancsi is so excited he can hardly get the next words out:
“WHEN DO WE GO OVER AND KILL HIS COW??”
Sorry for another OT posting, but I just read this interview in HVG that I’d like to share.
This was an interview with Jozsef Angyan, ministry official who resigned from the Ministry of Agriculture over the scandalous ways oligarchic business interests gain control over Hungarian agricultural land. My understanding is the state is leasing agricultural land by public tender, but the bids are rigged so that certain business lobby groups receive the land over local farmers. The most beautiful part of the interview, in rough translation:
“Land is big business. EU agricultural land subsidies slowly reach 100% in our country, too – this is 300 Euros or 100,000 forints per hectare of land. At the same time, rental fee on one hectare of an average quality land is 25,000 forint. The difference is 75,000. That is, if you buy a 100 hectares, this is 7.5 million forints annually, without one single dig with the spade” (well, the original said “hoe” not “spade”, anyways, the expression means that without any actual work on the land).
The interview in Hungarian: http://hvg.hu/itthon/20120428_angyan_jozsef_orbannak_uzen
A pretty good article in English on the same topic: http://www.economist.com/blogs/easternapproaches/2012/02/hungary
The situation seems to be very similar to some third world countries, where international aid does not reach reach the population in need, because it is taken by the corrupt political leadership.
Dear EU, please stop feeding this mob with EU money…
@ An and Eu money
I can see why the EU agreements have to be rewritten..Why is
there no EU oversight on how EU money is being spent?
How many bridges could’ve been built on the money spent to refurbish Margit Bridge?
@An, If anyone ever wondered, what’s in it for “them”? You just provided the proof. The Fidesz Club members are “crying” because of Trianon, while the same ignorant members allow their homeland to be divided by the Hungarian Fidesz maffia.
The only two excuses for belonging to that club is ignorance or being one of the beneficiaries. The first one is hard to combat as Fidesz leadership puts 50% of their resources to dumb down people (education, pr, information flow, show trials). The other 50% of their resources goes into figuring out ways to take a piece of the country. THis second club membership hopefully end up in jail.
Sorry An it is not only about EU money. It is also about hunting (hunting tourism), speculating (person or companies current leasing may buy the land cheap in future).
About Hunting see http://www.face.eu/National_Info_Sheets/hungary_en.pdf
Where are Johnny Boy’s comments, when we need it?
For general background on the subject:
Now how the general background for China’s economy is relevant for the tiny size Hungary? We all now what is happening in Myanmar politically, so are you foreshadowing where Orban’s government will lead Hungary? Russia, Canada and the USA have strong economies on their own, so the investment is just like that, and they do not have to sell their soul for it for sure. Canada,
Actually believed that you are ant-communist and you would have a problem too with Orban wanting to follow (and this is according to his words!) the Chinese political and employment standards.
The background related to Chinese investment in other countries and noy per se the Chinese economy.. I have posted it to show tha many non-totaliarian countries are happy about Chinese investment. What is the economic basis for rejecting from any country investment in any host country? Such investment contributes to the GDP and betters the economy of the recepient country regardless of who is in government.
Louis Kovach, it’s not just Chinese investment, but the zeal and lack of appropriate restrain and transparency with which it is being sought and carried out. A seventy-year lease on an airport, for example, or the fact that so many of the agreements have been declared secret, and of course, taking all ethic Tibetans into custody during the visit of the Chinese Premier, so that they might not protest his visit.
Taking “non-desirable” aliens into custody is a standard French practice also during the home country’s bosses visit.
See: “Freedom of religion in France” on Wikipedia as compiled example.
I do not understand VO and friends. Are they for or against Asia (including China)..
I guess you missed approximately 90% of my reply , as you stuck with the first queston, so here it is
Louis Kovach, France has not called all Tibetans into custody at the immigration office during the visit of a Chinese Premier. But even if this were the case, are you really saying that holding legal residents of Hungary, identified only by their race, for the purpose of keeping them from exercising their rights to free association, speech, and assembly is okay just because it is practiced in another country? If your children were to do something wrong, would you accept an excuse from them that “it was okay because others did it too?” Don’t you love Hungary enough to want and expect it to be _better_ than other countries, not just mediocre?
GW. Yes the French collected up the good Tibetian folks. I do not approve either country’s policy. (in earlier times they collected up even Hungarian folks when Soviet leaders visited.) I just wanted to point out that the practice is NOT solely Hungarian. In this blog, I will be happy if Hungary is posited as not always a villain, even if some of its goverment’s actions are as bad as those of some west European states.
Well, then it’s all right then. More villains the better.
Since it is a blog about Hungary, it will be critical of Hungary. We already left the rosy socrealistic pictures with Rakosy. It was Orban actually who picked that up. When you take a look at the illustrations ordered by the new Constitution by the Orban government, and when he got into power “The first sign things had changed were the rectangular plaques that suddenly appeared on the walls of government offices, army barracks and theatres.” (Doug Sanders)
“A new social contract” has developed “following the successful revolution in the voting booths,” the plaque reads. “Hungarians have voted for a new system, that of national unity.” The government, the plaque continues, will complete this unity “resolutely and without compromise.” Spiegel
Fidesz does the damage to itself, we do not need to help them for sure. Yes other countries made mistakes too, but not so fast in so many ways. Let’s be critical as Orban is surrounded by the likes who surrounded Stalin and Rakosy too.
All right, Kovach. We get it. Next time you can skip the France, North-Korea, Alpha Centauri and alternate universe comparisons and go directly to your opinion about the subject.
This is what the Fidesz government does also. Every time there is some criticism they tell that in such and such a country it is also done this way. Often these assertions are only half true but what is more important that this isn’t the point. Just because somewhere is something wrong it doesn’t excuse another country to amullate.
It’s even funnier on politics.hu – some guys there immediately come up with usually totally irrelevant examples like – the Americans did this also … and if that’s not possible the “answer” goes like this: You shouldn’t meddle with us – in your country there’s a group that does …
So it’s back to the old communist adage about “Einmischung in die inneren Angelegenheiten eines Staates” i e “Meddling with the internal affairs of another state” (don’t know if that’s the official equivalent …)
Fidesz and its minions in the last months have had this “answer” for practically everyone: The EU, IMF, Council of Europe, Amnesty International, Transparency International, the European Journalist’s Union – you name them …
It reminds me of the old joke about the guy who drives in the wrong direction on the motorway. When he hears the warning on the radio about a “ghost-driver” he says to his wife: What, one ghost driver ? – There are hundreds of them …
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