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By LEVENTE HORVATH | China Daily Global | Updated: 2024-05-07 08:18
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Hungary does not approach relations with China from an ideological point of view and views it as a friendly cooperative partner

The most important issue of the 21st century is the transformation of the world order from a unipolar to a multipolar world order, in which China and the European Union will play a leading role alongside several other poles. In order to develop genuine cooperation between the two parties, it is important to get to know each other's cultures, traditions and ways of thinking. Only in this way will it be possible to forge mutually beneficial cooperation based on mutual respect and understanding and avoid bloc formation based on misperceptions.

While the leaders of the European Union are increasingly pushing for ideologically motivated decoupling, which is not in the EU's interests, and misinterpreting China's goals, EU member states are increasingly engaging in closer economic cooperation with China. For example, Germany's trade with China was worth 253.1 billion euros ($270.6 billion) in 2023, making China Germany's most important trading partner for the eighth year in a row.

The EU and China are major trading partners. In 2022, the bilateral trade in goods increased by 23 percent year-on-year to a record level of 857 billion euros. EU exports to China rose by 3.1 percent to 230 billion euros, while EU imports from China increased by 32 percent to 626 billion euros. In 2022, the trade volume amounted to more than 2 billion euros per day, making China the third-largest partner for EU exports of goods (about 9 percent), and the largest partner for EU imports of goods (about 20.8 percent).

The German chancellor visited Beijing last month with a large business delegation, and the Spanish, Belgian and Dutch prime ministers have also made recent trips to China. French President Emmanuel Macron visited China last year and several European heads of state are planning official visits to China this year, including Italy's.

Interestingly, however, these member states remain critical of China at the communication level while seeking serious cooperation in the background. Hungary, on the other hand, stands out among the EU member states in this respect, as it negotiates with China in a spirit of mutual respect, without any Western hypocrisy. This is also due to the fact that Hungary does not approach the country from an ideological point of view, but works to build friendly relations with China, respecting China's history, culture and traditions, and its internal affairs. The two countries share a similar vision of international relations and economic cooperation and both sides support connectivity and peaceful negotiations and reject warmongering. Thanks to this similar mindset, mutual respect and a stable political and economic environment in Hungary, Hungarian imports and exports have soared since the announcement of Hungary's "Opening to the East "policy in 2010, making China Hungary's largest trading partner outside Europe, accounting for 4 percent of its total foreign trade. In terms of foreign direct investment, China was the largest investor in Hungary in 2022 and 2023, creating more than 20,000 new jobs in Hungary. Chinese investments accounted for 9 percent of Hungary's total FDI by the end of 2023. In addition, direct flights from seven Chinese cities to Budapest are already available this year. Hungarian-Chinese relations have not only reached a high level in recent years, but have also become of high quality. For example, with the Chinese investments in the field of the lithium-ion batteries, Hungary already ranks third in the world, with a 4 percent global market share after the second, the United States (6 percent). China's share of global lithium-ion battery production capacity is an astonishing 79 percent, so with its high-quality cooperation with China, Hungary expects to overtake the US in this field soon.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and Chinese President Xi Jinping will celebrate the 75th anniversary of Hungarian-Chinese diplomatic relations in Budapest in early May, as President Xi will pay an official visit to Hungary after his visits to France and Serbia. Hungary and China signed a comprehensive strategic partnership agreement in 2017, and the meeting between the two countries' leaders is expected to raise the partnership to a higher level.

Following President Xi's visit to Europe, we are looking ahead to the EU elections in June, where one of the issues at stake is whether the European Parliament should support economic cooperation, peace and connectivity, or whether sanctions, protectionist policies and bloc confrontation will be the order of the day. The latter do not serve the EU's interests, and EU member states know this. The question is whether the new European Parliament will be able to decide independently.

In the second half of the year, Hungary will take over the rotating presidency of the EU, under which EU-China relations can hopefully also take a turn for the better and fit into the new multipolar world order in a mutually reinforcing and supportive way.

The author is director of the Eurasia Center at John von Neumann University in Hungary and former consul general of Hungary in Shanghai. The author contributed this article to China Watch, a think tank powered by China Daily.

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