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The Hungarian government is working with a Chinese state-owned megacorporation to achieve one of the biggest investments in the last few decades of Hungary’s higher education; the creation of a Fudan University campus in Budapest’s IX. District. While the government believes the decision can only benefit the two countries, it has caused in uproar from opposition leaders.

Government critical investigative site Direkt36 reported, based on a government document, that Hungary would finance 100-billion-forint (roughly 279 million EUR), while China would provide a 450-billion-forint (around 1.25 billion EUR) loan for the 540-billion-forint (roughly 1.5 billion EUR) construction cost of the university.

Fact

Fudan University is an internationally well-reputed university based in Shanghai, China. It ranked 70th in 2021’s World University Rankings and 51-60th in 2020’s World Reputation Rankings. According to 2020’s Asia University Rankings it is the 17th best university in Asia.

Construction Planned on Student City Site

According to the investigative portal, this investment follows the same path as the Budapest-Belgrade railway plan, which is also a joint Chinese-Hungarian project.

Hungary, China to Cooperate on Establishment of Fudan Hungary University
Hungary, China to Cooperate on Establishment of Fudan Hungary University

Hungary and China have signed a declaration of intent to cooperate on Fudan University setting up a campus in Budapest, the innovation and technology ministry (ITM) said on Wednesday. Fudan Hungary University will issue both Hungarian and dual Hungarian-Chinese degrees primarily in economics, engineering and medicine programmes, the ministry said in a statement. As part […]Continue reading

Direkt36 said that according to the government document, construction will take place at the site of the Budapest Student City – Southern City Gate Development Program.

The purpose of this development program, according to its website, is to “implement a livable urban development project in the region of South Budapest, in a classical brownfield area, where housing will be created, in several phases, for nearly 12,000 university citizens in the future Budapest Student City.”

Adding to the university’s controversial location is that China State Construction Engineering Corporation Ltd., the Chinese corporation responsible for constructing the university campus, has been suspected of corruption and unlawful surveillance a number of times.

Ferencváros Mayor: Fudan Uni’s Construction Against Public Interest

Posting to Facebook, Ferencváros mayor Krisztina Baranyi said the investment would exclusively serve the interests of a private university “since [the government] is not only handing over the property, but is also building on it, then handing over the university and its associated facilities to the Chinese.”

Jobbik Slams Govt Support of Fudan University in Budapest
Jobbik Slams Govt Support of Fudan University in Budapest

The opposition Jobbik party on Saturday slammed the government for funding the Budapest branch of China’s Fudan University with 821 million forints (EUR 2.2bn), and called for the support of modern, autonomous Hungarian universities instead. Party lawmaker Koloman Brenner told an online press conference that “turning a Chinese university loose in Hungarian higher education” and […]Continue reading

The mayor told RTL News that Ferencváros will certainly not hand over its own property for the building of a Chinese university, but according to liberal weekly hvg.hu, 80-85 percent of the unused, formerly industrial area is in private hands.

MSZP Says There Is No Profit for Hungary’s Economy

MSZP (Socialist Party) made a statement criticizing the government’s decision to build the Fudan campus from Chinese loans, especially after it had kicked out Central European University. According to their statement the government is spending more on this one investment than it did in the entirety of Hungary’s higher education in 2019.

They are picking up a huge sum from China, which Hungarians will have to pay back so that the Chinese state can build a Chinese university in Hungary. They are doing this in a way that does not bring any profit to the Hungarian economy, and they are taking away the Budapest Student City investment’s promise to provide thousands of Hungarian students with housing.”

Jobbik: Govt should support Hungarian youth instead of Chinese university

The opposition Jobbik party has called on the Orbán government to support the housing of Hungarian youth rather than establishing a Chinese campus in Budapest. Deputy party leader Dániel Z Kárpát called it “outrageous” that the government would spend 540 billion forints (EUR 1.5bn) on the project from taxpayer money and loans, and scrap the plan to build a student city with sporting and recreation facilities for the accommodation of 8,500 Hungarian young people on the land in question. Kárpát Z insisted that the government should immediately revise the project. Jobbik, he said, would only welcome foreign universities here if they served the interests of the Hungarian economy and its youth.

The past ten years of Fidesz rule, the Jobbik politician said, had witnessed a “brutal emigration spiral”, with the cream of Hungarian youth forced to find their future abroad. He called the government’s policy of using “Chinese mega loans to pave the way for Chinese investment projects” a “betrayal of young Hungarians”.

Budapest Mayor: China to Have Increased Power In EU

Budapest mayor and leftist green party Párbeszéd co-leader Gergely Karácsony criticized the investment on Facebook, saying that it goes against the plans made by the Metropolitan Assembly’s decision on the Student City Program, and it goes against the words of the prime minister. Prime Minister Viktor Orbán had previously announced that nothing will be brought into effect without the support of the Metropolitan Assembly.

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

Karácsony argued that instead of making housing cheaper for Hungarian university students and following the Budapest leadership’s, as well as European values, “the building of a Chinese university could be a tool for China to build its political influence, power, and secret service in Hungary and Europe.”

PMO Head Supports Fudan as “Elite University”

In the government’s most recent press conference on Thursday, Head of the Prime Minister’s Press Office Gergely Gulyás said that the construction of Fudan University’s Budapest location is not in conflict with the Student City program. He emphasized that one of the “elite universities of the world” would “give meaning” to the student quarter and should have a place in Hungary.

Featured photo illustration by Balázs Szecsődi/MTI/Prime Minister’s Press Office