Eastern Opening: China

Prime Minister Orbán and Premier Wen Jiabao Exchange Official Visits

Premier Wen Jiabao reviews a Hungarian Army honor guard during his official visit to Budapest.

Premier Wen Jiabao reviews a Hungarian Army honor guard during his official visit to Budapest.

On October 30, 2010, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán traveled to the People’s Republic of China (PRC) for a three-day official visit, the second country outside of Europe he visited in an official capacity after becoming prime minister of Hungary for the second time in May of that year (Azerbaijan was the first non-European country to which he made an official visit).

Orbán announced at the end of the visit, during which he held talks with PRC Premier Wen Jiabao, that Hungarian and Chinese officials had concluded several agreements, including: an investment in Hungary on the part of Chinese telecommunications-equipment and -services company Huawei Technologies that would create between 1,500 and 2,000 jobs; and cooperation between Hungary and China in the construction of a high-speed railway between Liszt Ferenc Airport and the city of Budapest (source in Hungarian).  

On June 24, 2011, Premier Wen Jiabao arrived to Budapest for a two-day official visit, the first time the leader of the PRC government had visited Hungary since 1987, three years before the latter country’s transition from communism to democracy. 

On the Second day of the visit, Orbán and Wen Jiabao announced the conclusion of 12 bilateral agreements, including the PRC premier’s promise that the Chinese government would purchase an unspecified amount of Hungarian government bonds (source in Hungarian).   

Wanhua Purchases BorsodChem

The BorsodChem chemical factory.

The BorsodChem chemical factory.

On February 1, 2011, the Chinese chemical company Wanhua Industrial Group purchased a 96-percent stake in the BorsodChem chemical company in Kazincbarcika, northeastern Hungary, the second largest chemical company in the country, for 1.23 billion euros (source in Hungarian). 

Ten Billion Dollar Chinese Regional Credit Fund  

On April 26, 2012, officials from the People’s Republic of China announced at the China–Central and Eastern European Business Forum in Warsaw, Poland, that the PRC’s government would establish a 10-billion-dollar credit fund for the 16 countries of central and eastern Europe to finance development projects in the region (source in English). 

The Financial Times reported that European Union officials were wary of the agreement, quoting one EU diplomat as saying the credit fund represented the PRC’s attempt to “divide and conquer” Europe (source in English). 

One Billion Euros in China Development Bank Funding for Hungary  

On May 1, 2012, National Economy Minister György Matolcsy signed an agreement with the state-owned China Development Bank for one-billion euros in developmental funding for Hungary to be disbursed through the Hungarian Development Bank (source in Hungarian). 

High Speed Railway Construction

High-speed dreams.

High-speed dreams.

Also on May 1, 2012, officials from the Hungarian State Railway (MÁV) signed an agreement with the China Railway Corporation initially announced during Premier Wen Jiaboa’s visit to Hungary the previous summer to cooperate in the construction of an approximately 20-kilometer-long high-speed railway linking Liszt Ferenc Airport to the Eastern Railway Station in Budapest (source in Hungarian). 

 200 Million Euros in Chinese Eximbank Loans 

On July 18, 2013, National Economy Minister Mihály Varga announced that the Hungarian Export-Import Bank concluded an agreement with the Chinese Export-Import Bank  for 100 million euros in loans to finance the expansion of exports to China from companies operating in Hungary (source in Hungarian). 

On November 26, 2013, officials from the Chinese and Hungarian Eximbanks announced that they had signed an agreement to add a further 100 million euros to the already depleted credit line (source in Hungarian) 

300 Million Euro Bank of China Loan for the Hungarian Electricity Works 

On September 9, 2013, the state-owned Hungarian Electricity Works (MVM) signed an agreement with the for a 300-million-euro loan with the Bank of China, one of four major state-owned commercial banks in China. MVM President-CEO Csaba Baji did not provide details regarding the purpose of the loan (source in Hungarian). 

The website index.hu reported that MVM would use the loan from the Bank of China to finance the acquisition of the Hungarian gas operations of German utilities company E.On, though MVM officials would not confirm this report (source in Hungarian). MVM subsequently paid nearly 950 million euros for the Hungarian gas operations of E.On on October 1, 2013 (source in Hungarian). 

Chinese Financing for Renovation of the Budapest-Belgrade Railway 

Concluding a deal for Chinese financing of the Belgrade-Budapest railway renovation project.

Concluding a deal for Chinese financing of the Belgrade-Budapest railway renovation project.

On November 25, 2013, following talks at the China–Central and Eastern European Summit in Bucharest, Romania, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, Prime Minister Ivica Dačić of Serbia and People’s Republic of China Premier Li Keqiang signed an agreement for the PRC to provide an unspecified amount of financial support for the estimated 2.89-billion-dollar renovation of the 374-kilometer railway, 90 percent of which lies in Hungary, between Budapest and Belgrade in order to make it suitable for high-speed trains (source in Hungarian).  

The Orbán government suggested that Hungary and Serbia would receive this support through the 10-billion-dollars in Chinese development funding for the countries of central and eastern Europe announced at the China–Central and Eastern European Business Forum in Warsaw in April 2012 (source in Hungarian). 

 Following the conclusion of the agreement, Prime Minister Orbán said “We must think in a different way, the world has changed and will never be the same as it was before the crisis [the global financial and economic crisis that began in 2008] and China will play a decisive role in this new world. Thus it is in the interest of all of us, including Europeans, that we establish good,mutually beneficial relations with China” (source in Hungarian). 

500 Million Dollar Central and Eastern European Investment Fund 

On November 26, 2013, officials from the Hungarian Export-Import Bank and the Chinese Export-Import Bank announced the establishment of a 500-million-dollar Central and Eastern European Investment Fund to which the Hungarian Eximbank would contribute 30 million dollars. The officials said that officials from Poland and Romania were involved in talks about joining the fund (source in Hungarian). 

Huawei Opens Logistics Center Near Budapest 

On December 3, 2013, Huawei Technologies opened a new, 30,000-square-meter logistics center in Biatorbágy, just west of Budapest, pursuant to an agreement signed during Prime Minister Orbán’s visit to China from October 31 to November 2, 2010 (source in Hungarian). 

At the official opening of the logistics center, Prime Minister Orbán said “Only those countries will remain on their feet and become winners in the post-crisis world that are open toward China and in which Chinese companies are present” (source in Hungarian). 

Prime Minister Orbán Leads Official Government and Business Delegation to China

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and Premier Li Keqiang at a meeting in Beijing.

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and Premier Li Keqiang at a meeting in Beijing.

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán made an official visit to the People’s Republic of China from February 11 to February 13, 2014, at the head of a Hungarian government and business delegation including Foreign Minister János Martonyi, National Economy Minister Mihály Varga, National Bank of Hungary Governor György Matolcsy, State Secretary in Charge of Foreign and External Economic Affairs Péter Szijjártó and the officials from 103 Hungarian companies (source in Hungarian).

During the three-day visit, Orbán met with both Premier Li Keqiang and President Xi Jinping, who also serves as General Secretary of the Communist Party of China. State Secretary Szijjártó announced that the delegation had signed 19 business agreements during its three-day stay in Beijing (source in Hungarian).

These included agreements to establish a working group to conduct preparations for renovation of the Budapest-Belgrade railway, to establish a Chinese tourism center in Budapest, to renew direct flights between Hungary and China, to open a center for traditional Chinese medicine in Hungary and to export Hungarian pork as well as rabbit, duck and goose meat to China (source in Hungarian). Officials also signed an agreement to raise to 200 the number of Chinese students studying in Hungary on Hungarian state scholarships (source in Hungarian). Chinese telecommunications-equipment manufacturer Huawei furthermore signed a declaration of intent to expand the company’s production capacity in Hungary and the Hungarian government signed a strategic agreement with the Wanhua Industrial Group, owner of the BorsodChem chemical plant in northeastern Hungary (source in Hungarian).

Prime Minister Orbán said during the trip that China could play a crucial role in financing infrastructural development in central and eastern Europe due to lack of funding for such investments in the European Union’s 2014–2020 budgetary cycle (source in Hungarian).

Bilateral Trade

The value of bilateral trade between Hungary and China increased only slightly in the first three years following Prime Minister Viktor Orbán returned to power, rising to 1.63 trillion forints in 2013 from 1.6 trillion forints in 2010. In 2013, China was Hungary’s second-largest trading partner behind Russia (2.64 trillion forints) among countries outside the European Union (source in English).

The value of bilateral trade between Hungary and China grew steadily from 1.63 trillion forints in 2013 to 1.67 trillion forints in 2014, 1.84 trillion forints in 2015, 2 trillion forints in 2016 and 2.19 trillion forints in 2017. China thus became Hungary’s largest trading partner among countries outside the European Union, surpassing Russia, with which Hungary conducted 1.52 trillion forints in bilateral trade in 2017 (source in English).

Last updated: May 21, 2018. 

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