China and Hungary deepen 'strategic partnership' with slate of new deals

Leaders tout surge in economic ties during Xi's visit, agree on infrastructure, energy, and agricultural initiatives.

China and Hungary deepen 'strategic partnership' with slate of new deals
Szilard Koszticsak/MTI via AP
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The Chinese and Hungarian governments unveiled an extensive series of economic agreements this week during President Xi Jinping's state visit, in a move that officials from both nations heralded as an elevation of bilateral ties to a "strategic partnership."

After a two-day summit on Friday, Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó announced 18 deals had been signed spanning sectors like rail, air transport, automotive, agriculture and nuclear energy cooperation, Remix News reports.

The agreements flesh out Hungary's participation in China's Belt and Road global infrastructure initiative. They include preparations to construct a railway bypassing Budapest to streamline freight transport, high-speed rail linking the airport to the capital, and developing the country's electric vehicle charging network.

Mr. Szijjártó said Hungary, Serbia and Chinese partners will also work toward building "Europe's most modern, largest, safest and fastest" road transit crossing along their borders. The potential construction of an oil pipeline between Hungary and Serbia is being explored as well.

In remarks after the summit, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán cited the "explosive growth" of economic cooperation with China over the past two decades. He noted bilateral trade has quadrupled to $12 billion currently from $3 billion in the early 2000s. Air links have expanded to seven direct flights between the countries.

"Twenty years ago, you couldn't find Chinese investment in Hungary with a magnifying glass at most. And today, I say that last year, three-quarters of all investment from Hungary came from China, and at the moment there is €16.4 billion of Chinese investment in Hungary," Mr. Orbán stated.

The prime minister described the accords as advancing a "fusion partnership" – upgrading ties from previously "friendly cooperation without any commitment other than gestures."

For his part, Mr. Szijjártó called Mr. Xi's visit "historic" and said the results "are worthy of a historic visit." He highlighted plans for Hungary and China to cooperate on nuclear energy as "a qualitatively new dimension" that will allow generating electricity "in the cheapest, safest and most efficient way."

The talks also cleared the way for increased Hungarian agricultural exports like cherries and cattle breeding materials to China.

The deals bind Hungary more tightly to Beijing's global economic ambitions through the Belt and Road Initiative at a time of tenseness in China's relationship with the European Union over trade and human rights issues.

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  • By David Menzies

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