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Gov’t Changes Communication Strategy as Controversy Surrounds Fudan

Hungary Today 2021.06.08.

It seems the Orbán government has chosen a new communication strategy after Saturday’s demonstration against the planned Chinese university campus in Budapest. Although previous strategies have all tried to secure the construction of the campus, the political leadership is now trying to emphasize that they support the opposition’s plan to call a referendum on the establishment of the Chinese University once they are finalized.

In an interview published just a day after a rally against the controversial Chinese University in Budapest, Gergely Gulyás, the Prime Minister’s chief of staff, said: “At the moment the issue of Fudan University does not exist in a state suitable for public debate.”

Gulyás also noted that the government supports the opposition plan to call a referendum on the construction of the Fudan University campus after the plans are finalized and published. (Expectedly in 2023, well after the 2022 general elections).

Fudan: Gov't Talks About Potential Referendum After Public Demonstration
Fudan: Gov't Talks About Potential Referendum After Public Demonstration

The government backs the idea of consulting Budapest residents in a referendum on Fudan University once the facts related to the investment are fully known, PM Chief of Staff, Gergely Gulyás, said after the large-scale Saturday demonstration. Budapest’s opposition leadership, meanwhile, claims victory while the mayor once again urged the government to publish relevant documentation […]Continue reading

When an opposition MP asked the government about Fudan University at Monday’s parliamentary session, Financial Minister, Mihály Varga, simply repeated what Gulyás had said without revealing any substantive information about the project.

From Gulyás’ words, it would seem that the opposition is protesting against an under-developed plan about which no details are yet known. This is despite the fact that the government has until now done its utmost to hasten and make the construction of Fudan irreversible.

Fact

In the midst of the heated debate around Fudan, György Matolcsy, the Governor of the Central Bank of Hungary, has published an essay on the biggest challenges and opportunities of the current decade, in which he suggested that the EU should take part in the rise of China. The central bank governor, who was also Hungary’s former minister of the national economy, is rather pessimistic about the future of the European Union. Matolcsy sees a bipolar world emerging, with the United States on one side and China on the other. There is no room for a third strong player between the two, either politically or economically, and this will eventually erode the bloc’s community. On the other hand, he believes opportunities include, among others, the cooperation with China. “Although it will be increasingly difficult for some time, Europe and the EU must not miss the biggest business opportunity of the 21st century: the rise of Asia, including China,” Matolcsy writes.

Until the end of last week, several government officials treated the construction of Fudan University in Hungary as a fact.

Previously, IT Minister Palkovics had said that even in the case of a referendum, he does not see to change the plans for the construction and location of the university possible, because this has already been agreed upon with China.

China Lambasts Budapest Mayor for Remarks at Protest Against Fudan
China Lambasts Budapest Mayor for Remarks at Protest Against Fudan

The events surrounding the Chinese Fudan University campus in Budapest, including renaming the streets in its close vicinity and Saturday’s protest against its construction, have made waves in China as well. In the Chinese state media, Mayor Gergely Karácsony was outright called “anti-China,” while his speech at the demonstration was deemed an attack on the […]Continue reading

In addition, a leaked government memo from the ministry in February stated that “…it is necessary to reach a stage where the investment process can no longer be stopped.”

Moreover, the government already submitted a bill to parliament in May, which, if passed, would create an asset management foundation for the establishment and maintenance of the Chinese university in cooperation with Fudan. (The draft has even been debated in Parliament several times).

The mayor of Budapest also commented on the government’s communication regarding Fudan University. According to Gergely Karácsony, the political leadership is talking nonsense, and the numerous contradictory statements are simply due to the panic in ruling Fidesz.

In the featured photo: protesters rally against the establishment of the campus of China’s Fudan University in Budapest. Photo by Zoltán Balogh/MTI