| Courtesy of Hungarian Foreign Ministry

Strategic Cooperation and Diverse Relationship

Hungary’s relationship with China was the main topic in the previous issue of Diplomacy & Trade. The main issues were touched upon by Szabolcs Takács, Deputy State Secretary for Global Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Following the 1989 political transition, Hungary defined essentially three main foreign policy goals: Euro-Atlantic integration, which meant accession to NATO and the European Union; redefining our relationship with the neighboring countries, on the basis of recognition of common history and cultural heritage; and as importantly as the other goals, taking on the responsibility for the Hungarian communities living abroad.

Nevertheless, in 2010, when the current Hungarian government took office, we had to give credible proof that we realized the tremendous changes that the world had undergone in the past two decades. There have been major power shifts and the world has become multipolar. New centers of economic power have emerged.

We have been forced to admit that the numerous challenges that we face today, be they political, economic, social or environmental, are global in their nature, and thus require global responses. The level of interdependence has increased to an extent that had never before seemed conceivable.

Realizing the multi-faceted impact of globalization, one of the first measures of the new Hungarian Government was to adapt our foreign policy to the new realities across the world. This is what we call the policy of global opening. In practice, it means the strengthening of ties with our traditional partners, and forging new partnerships with the countries that are ready to cooperate in seeking innovative answers to the rapid changes threatening our overall security.

The presence of the Asian ancestry ubiquitous in Hungarian culture and national self-determination, as well as the evolving new world order, has predetermined that the comprehensive world view which the Hungarian foreign policy possesses has Asia, and within that, countries like Japan, the Republic of Korea, India, to name a few, and the world’s most populous and one of the most dynamically developing countries, the People’s Republic of China, as one of its top priorities.

Our bilateral relations with China go way back to the year of 1949: we were among the first nations to recognize the founding and legitimacy of the People’s Republic of China. Our relations in the following forty years were balanced. Beijing, as we see it, regarded our nation as sort of an example or inspiration during its economic opening-up and reform measures and has followed Hungarian events with a special interest and attention.

However, the real milestone in our relations was brought on by the policy of global opening as well as the special attention of the Hungarian Government towards Beijing. Prime Minister Viktor Orbán made his first overseas trip to the People’s Republic of China where he met with Premier Wen Jiabao. Subsequent to the visit, the Hungarian Government established a special Government Commission, which set the alignment of bilateral relations, the coordination of work of state actors interested in China, as well as deepening our economic ties as its main objective.

Due to the negative effects of the global economic crisis, focusing on strengthening our economic cooperation became even more significant, thus, the Government Commission came under the authority of first the Minister of National Development, then the Minister of National Economy. Thanks to the determined pursuit of building relations from both the Chinese and the Hungarian side, our bilateral commodity turnover has exceeded USD 7.5 billion and the investments coming from China are approaching USD 2.5 billion.

The foundations to build on a solid political and economic cooperation were laid by the visit of the Premier of the State Council, Wen Jiabao as well as that of Vice-Premier Li Keqiang to Budapest. Thus, the period of forming a strategic partnership has been completed and replaced by focusing on actual projects and mutual business interests. Around twenty agreements were signed during the two visits, comprising a wide variety of fields including industrial, financial and cultural cooperation, just to name a few. The completion and execution of these is going to make up a significant part of our bilateral relations in the near future, but we can already declare that China is one of our most important and trustworthy partners in the Asian region.

In the past two years, the People’s Republic of China redefined its ties with the states of the Central European area. In this framework – on China’s request – Budapest was home to the China - Central and Eastern Europe Business Forum in 2011, which was followed by the Warsaw Meeting between the Prime Ministers of China and Central European Countries in 2012. Besides the People’s Republic of China, Poland, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania and Macedonia participated in the Warsaw Forum.

The new joint Central European platform is an outstanding opportunity for us: we can pursue cross-border development we otherwise might not be able to join due to the differences arising from the size and economic weight of China and the countries of our region. Thus, we have assured the Central Europe-China regional level approach of our support, which we also regard as a positive contribution to the strategic cooperation and diverse relationship between the European Union and the People’s Republic of China.

Szabolcs Takács

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