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The world economy is changing, and Hungary’s cooperation with China is a key part in ensuring the future benefits of the next decade, according to Viktor Orbán. In the government’s press conference on Thursday, the prime minister addressed questions around Fudan university, the opposition’s “anti-China rhetoric,” and future cooperation with the PRC.

Orbán: Hungary’s Cooperation with China Purely Economic

Prime Minister Orbán does not believe the “anti-China rhetoric” of opposition Párbeszéd leader and Budapest mayor Gergely Karácsony can significantly damage relations between Hungary and China.

Fact

The mayor of Budapest is a vocal opponent of the Chinese state-owned Fudan University on the northern half of the planned location of the Student City. He has even, with the cooperation of the ninth district mayor Krisztina Baranyi, renamed four streets around the planned campus with names affiliated with China’s human rights abuses.

Chinese Spokesman Says Fudan Streets Renaming Protest "Beneath Contempt"
Chinese Spokesman Says Fudan Streets Renaming Protest

The Foreign Ministry said that Hungarian opposition politicians are "hyping up China-related issues and hindering China-Hungary cooperation."Continue reading

According to Orbán, Hungary’s relationship with China is neither ideological or political, it is strictly a question of strong economic cooperation.

According to the prime minister, the next decade will be the decade of Eastern economies; Japan, South Korea, China, Indonesia, Vietnam, “a huge economic opportunity in which everyone wants to take part.”

In fact, Orbán went as far as saying that there is a race in the European Union to bolster economic relations with China, with “the Germans running in first place.”

Gov't Changes Communication Strategy as Controversy Surrounds Fudan
Gov't Changes Communication Strategy as Controversy Surrounds Fudan

Although previous strategies have all tried to secure the construction of the campus, the political leadership is now trying to emphasize that it supports the opposition plan to call a referendum on the establishment of the Chinese University.Continue reading

In turn, the Hungarian government does not wish to miss out on this opportunity, and will take part proportionately.

Fudan Establishment on a “Path of Compulsion”

Regarding whether the government will respect Budapest’s initiation of a consultation to poll citizen’s opinions on the construction of the university, Orbán said that “we do not have many options, since things are on a path of compulsion.”

Press Roundup: Opposition Protests against Fudan University
Press Roundup: Opposition Protests against Fudan University

A pro-government commentator criticizes the opposition for what he calls ‘the symbolic politics of victimhood’. A leftist columnist accuses the government of using double standards towards foreign-based universities.Continue reading

The prime minister considers the establishment of Fudan to be a professional question of higher education, which the Hungarian Left has turned into a political question.

Once the government has finalized plans and expenses, he said, “the decision-making citizens will decide here in Budapest within the frame of a referendum.”

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

According to PMO Head Gergely Gulyás, people can only decide the fate of the Chinese university in 2023.Continue reading

Minister of the Prime Minister’s Office Gergely Gulyás added that the government has until 31 December 2022 to present its preparations and plans to Budapest, making the final decision through a referendum.

Hungarians to Prepare for a “New Economic Order”

Orbán said the world economy is changing, and that there is a need to help Hungarian youth stand their ground in not only the Western but the Eastern economies of the “new economic order.”

We are not afraid of the communists, we already beat them once, so we have no problem with this, we know exactly what we need to do and how. Therefore, we consider our economic cooperation affiliated with them and the preparations and training aimed at that cooperation to be especially important.”

The prime minister brought up the international approaches of countries such as China, emphasizing that they only want “pragmatic cooperation,” without forcing ideologies on one another, something which he believes the West does not emulate. “We instruct them in matters which we should not be instructing them in.”

Orbán was also asked about the multiple interpretations which assert that economic agreements with China can have unfortunate consequences, since through them the PRC spreads its political influence.

Fudan University Budapest Comes Under Fire in National Assembly
Fudan University Budapest Comes Under Fire in National Assembly

While Fidesz supports the university strongly, Fudan faces nothing but criticism from opposition representatives.Continue reading

To this the prime minister responded that Fudan is in cooperation 5 German universities, 24 Scandinavian universities, and Yale University in the United States. He said that if they can avoid Chinese influence, Hungary can too.

As long as the national (Fidesz) government stands at the forefront of Hungary, you can be certain that there will be no foreign influence here. (…) if anyone thinks that attempts of influence have a direction defined by cardinal points or ideology, they are wrong. This is a part of international politics.”

What About Persecuted Christians in China?

On his way out of the press conference, Prime Minister Orbán was asked by government-critical conservative weekly Magyar Hang, who were not allowed to enter, about the government’s stance on China’s persecution of Christians. In recent years, the Chinese government has had multiple churches demolished, and over 500 crosses removed from their steeples, often replaced with a red star.

Orbán responded that Hungary does not want a Cold War-style relationship with China, and that with regards to Christians the government awaits Pope Francis’ visit to Hungary, and hopes that he will speak on the issue. “I will listen to the holy father on this matter, if he will be so kind to share his opinion.”

In the featured photo illustration: China Premier Li Keqiang and Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. Photo by Tamás Kovács/MTI