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The ideological impact of Fudan University’s Budapest campus, as well as its potential to overpower Hungarian universities, are both key issues in Hungary’s current discourse. While the Trade Union Association of Intellectuals  (ÉSZT) warns about Hungarian universities falling into Fudan’s shadow, Minister of National Innovation and Technology László Palkovics says that the Chinese state-run university can only benefit Hungary. 

Academic Union Warns of Fudan’s Power

The Confederation of Unions of Professionals (ÉSZT) emphasized that the media has been focusing little on the effect a Chinese state-run university with an overabundance of funding and a determination to access the European intellectual and economic market will have on Hungarian universities, many which are currently being redeveloped into private foundation-run models.

Currently, Fudan is working with universities like Corvinus and Semmelweis, but within a few years, the union says they will become competitors. ÉSZT believes this competition will take place with the Hungarians having to catch up from a significant disadvantage.

Budapest Leadership Clashes with Gov't Over Fudan University
Budapest Leadership Clashes with Gov't Over Fudan University

The clash between the plans for construction of Fudan University’s Budapest campus and the IX District’s Student City Program has caused a conflict of interest between the Hungarian Fidesz-led government and Budapest’s opposition-led municipality. A number of developments have led to the Chinese state university being planned to replace the northern portion of the Student […]Continue reading

This disadvantage, the union explains, relates to the current model changes affecting multiple universities, which should, while causing complications on the short-term, provide them with long-term gains by drawing in European Union funding as well as students from abroad.

According to ÉSZT, this task will be made difficult by Fudan, which will be able to guarantee higher pay and better, more modern infrastructure.

Minister Palkovics Says Fudan Will Benefit Hungary

Minister of Innovation and Technology László Palkovics was interviewed by pro-government Hír TV on Monday, where he stated that if China wanted to spy on Hungary, it would not require a university.

Fact

László Palkovics recently replaced Balázs Fürjes as Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s designated official to make both the Student City and Fudan University a reality in the IX District.

On the subject of its international standing, Palkovics spoke about how, in certain rankings, Fudan is considered to be the 34th best university in the world. No other university in the European Union currently surpasses it, and unfortunately no Hungarian university even makes it into the top one hundred.

Press Roundup: Chinese Fudan University to Build Campus in Budapest
Press Roundup: Chinese Fudan University to Build Campus in Budapest

Opinions diverge sharply on the plan to open a Chinese university campus in Budapest in 2024. This will be the first campus the Shanghai-based Fudan University opens abroad. The Hungarian government plans to fund the project from Chinese loans. Hungarian press roundup by budapost.eu Magyar Narancs in a first page editorial lambasts the government’s plan to finance […]Continue reading

The minister said that the 540-billion-forint (1.5 billion EUR) cost of the university (financed by the Hungarian taxpayers), including a 450-billion-forint (1.25 billion EUR) loan from China, is not only for construction, but for renovation and acquisition of the materials that would make the university operable. In this sense, he believes that “this is not such a large sum.”

Palkovics also brought attention to the fact that Hungary aims to, with the EU’s recovery funds from the Recovery and Resilience Facility, fund 1,500 billion forints (4.2 billion EUR) into the development of Hungarian universities.

Fact

It is important to note that if only three Hungarian universities receive equal amounts of investment through the 1,500-billion-forint EU recovery funds, they will each be receiving less than the total 540 billion forints it will cost to establish Fudan University’s Budapest campus. As a point of reference, the overall hard cost budget of Central European University’s Budapest location was 12 billion forints (34 million EUR).

Student City Has “A Much Broader Function”

The minister said that the 200 billion forint (554 million EUR) “residency development program,” referring to the “former ‘Student City’ concept,” will be built next to Fudan.

Budapest Mayor Shows What Student City Would Look Like Without Fudan
Budapest Mayor Shows What Student City Would Look Like Without Fudan

Budapest Mayor Gergely Karácsony shared the simulated images of Budapest’s planned Student City, located in the same area as the construction site of Fudan University’s Budapest campus. The Orbán government has allegedly decided to, with a large loan from China, build a campus for the internationally prestigious private university on the site which was supposed […]Continue reading

Palkovics considers the construction of Fudan to be an applicable part to the Student City’s design. He found it strange that Budapest mayor Gergely Karácsony would be surprised that “The Student City does not just mean residencies, but instead has a much broader function, which we have always spoken about.”

The innovation minister believes the reason for the opposition to the Fudan in Budapest is because of the current opposition-led leadership of the capital.

Palkovics Says There Will Be No Ideology

The minister emphasized that anyone will be able to apply to and attend Fudan in Budapest, and that there will be no secret service operations or ideological indoctrination, despite Fudan’s charter specifying that it is loyal to the Chinese Communist Party.

Opposition: Planned Fudan Campus Poses Security Risks for Hungary
Opposition: Planned Fudan Campus Poses Security Risks for Hungary

Opposition members of parliament’s national security committee on Tuesday raised concerns over plans to set up a Fudan University campus in Budapest. János Stummer of the right-wing Jobbik party said the government had failed to answer questions such as who represents the Hungarian state in negotiations with the Chinese university and whether they had undergone […]Continue reading

To the question of whether the government will ensure that no ideological indoctrination takes place, Palkovics responded that the Chinese university will fundamentally provide classes related to technology and medicine, subjects which he said that even the Kádár regime could not impact during Hungary’s communist period. Still, the minister said that there is no problem with providing different viewpoints that are less “mainstream.”

There will be no ideological education, but instead different issues will be brought forth and explained in some way.”

Ideology in universities has previously been a significant issue for the Hungarian government. It has been the premise for its conflicts with Central European University and the University of Theatre and Film Arts.

Xi Praises “Red and Professional” Universities

Palkovics’ statement about Fudan seems to be at odds with the belief held by the head of Chinese communism, General Secretary Xi Jinping.

Shaking Hands with the Dragon: Hungary-China Relations
Shaking Hands with the Dragon: Hungary-China Relations

The last few weeks have seen a rapid flurry of activity on the international stage between the West and China. China began the secret trial of the two Canadian citizens being held in response to Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou’s arrest on a United States extradition order. Canada and various Western countries responded by sending their […]Continue reading

Coincidentally, the Chinese Communist Party will be celebrating its one hundredth anniversary in July. To mark the occasion, the general secretary is currently holding talks at Chinese universities, as he believes that higher education plays a key role in the building of a socialist future.

Speaking at Tsinghua University, the leader of the PRC stated that Chinese universities should train “builders and successors” loyal to the socialist cause. Xi praised the university for training students who were “both red and professional,” a phrase from the era of Mao Zedong.

Featured photo illustration by Vivien Cher Benko/MTI/Prime Minister’s Press Office