Prime Minister Viktor Orbán at his last meeting with President Xi Jinping in October 2023 at the 3rd Forum of the Belt and Road Initiative in Beijing. Photo: MTI/ Zoltán Fischer

Chinese president to visit Hungary as countries celebrate 75 years of friendship

The deep friendship between China and Hungary is reflected in the cultural sector, as the two countries celebrate the 75th anniversary of diplomatic ties this year.

Historical exchanges are seen in literature, such as a poem written by renowned 19th-century Hungarian author Sandor Petofi. He wrote: “Liberty and love / These two I must have. / For my love, I’ll sacrifice my life. / For liberty, I’ll sacrifice my love.”

Petofi was one of the spiritual leaders of the 1848 War of Independence. Not only did he express himself with a pen, but he also enlisted and fought in battles.

The poem served as an inspiration to many young pioneers of Chinese literature in the revolutionary years of the early 1930s. Lu Xun, a Chinese writer, literary critic, and leading figure in modern Chinese literature, popularized it in China.

The statue of Petofi stands in Lu Xun Park in Shanghai, Beijing, and Ningbo. The Hungarian government donated the one in Shanghai’s Lu Xun Park in 2007 to celebrate the country’s long-lasting friendship with China.

Statue of Sandor Petofi in Lu Xun Park in Shanghai – Source: CGTN

President Xi to visit Hungary

Chinese President Xi Jinping will begin a state visit to Hungary at the invitation of his Hungarian counterpart Tamás Sulyok and Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, after he visits France and Serbia. It is President Xi’s first trip to Europe in five years, and his state visit to Hungary will be the first by a Chinese head of state in nearly two decades.

In Budapest, President Xi will meet with the Hungarian president and prime minister to discuss China-Hungary relations and issues of mutual interest.

China’s foreign ministry told CGTN that President Xi’s visit would play an important role in the development of Central Europe.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Lin Jian described the high-level exchanges as “vitally important for China’s relations with France, Serbia, Hungary, and the European Union” as they provide “new impetus for global peace and development.”


High-level exchanges and economic cooperation

China’s president last met with Viktor Orbán in October 2023 when the Hungarian prime minister attended the Third Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing.

During the visit President Xi said, “China is willing to continue to be good friends and good partners of Hungary with mutual trust and win-win cooperation.”

He added that China and Hungary should see the 75th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations as an opportunity to elevate the two countries’ bilateral comprehensive strategic partnership to a new level and write a new chapter in friendly cooperation.

Hungary was the first European country to sign a Belt and Road Initiative cooperation agreement in 2015. The Hungary-Serbia high-speed railway, also known as the Budapest-Belgrade railway, is a flagship project of the partnership. The 80-kilometer section between Belgrade and Serbia’s second-largest city of Novi Sad has been operational since March 2022.

According to China State Railway Group, the length of the double-track electrified railway is 341.7 kilometers, with 183.1 kilometers in Serbia and 158.6 kilometers in Hungary. The line is designed for trains with a maximum speed of 200 kilometers per hour in Serbia and 160 kilometers per hour in Hungary. The entire project is scheduled to be finished by 2026.

China and Hungary are comprehensive strategic partners. Hungary is one of China’s most important trade partners in Central and Eastern Europe and has been China’s largest investment destination in the region for many years.

According to Hungarian Minister for National Economy Marton Nagy, Hungary attracted a total of 13 billion euros in foreign direct investment, of which about 8 billion euros were from Chinese investments, creating more than 10,000 jobs.

Meanwhile, a China-Hungary Investment and Cooperation Report released by the China Economic Information Office shows that trade between the two countries exceeded 14.5 billion US dollars in 2023, an increase of 73% in comparison to a decade ago.

In response, Hungary simplified its visa policy for Chinese business travelers, releasing a five-year visa program for multiple entries.


Promoting bilateral cultural exchanges

Founded in September 2004, the Hungarian-Chinese bilingual school in Budapest is the only full-time school in Central and Eastern Europe that teaches classes in Chinese and the local language. The school has 12 grades and 20 classes with more than 530 students enrolled.

The students are immersed in traditional Chinese culture during their study – through calligraphy and even performing Chinese tea ceremonies.

The school witnessed the growth of friendship between the two countries as Xi Jinping – then China’s vice president – visited students in October 2009.

Before the 2023 Spring Festival holiday, two students – whose Chinese names are Hu Lingyue and Song Zhixiao – wrote a letter to President Xi and his wife, Professor Peng Liyuan, on behalf of the students at the school. In the letter they spoke about their experience studying the Chinese language and expressed their wish to study at Chinese universities.

In his reply, President Xi said that he and his wife were glad to hear from the Hungarian students during the Spring Festival of the Year of the Rabbit, and that he still remembered his visit to the school more than a decade earlier.

The students from the Hungarian-Chinese Bilingual School received replied letter from Chinese President Xi through the official at the Chinese Embassy in Hungary – Source: CGTN

President Xi said he would like to give the students a thumbs-up for their long studies in Chinese and their commitment to making contributions to China-Hungary friendship. He welcomed students to study at Chinese universities and become envoys of the two countries.

The two Hungarian signatories of the letter are now studying at Capital Normal University in Beijing.

Principal Zsuzsanna Erdélyi said the Chinese language is not only taught at the school but that classes also offer an introduction to Chinese culture.

“The Chinese students are getting to know Hungarian culture as well, so I think that the two cultures and their friendship are very well represented and strengthened by this school,” Erdélyi said.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lin Jian said President Xi’s “milestone visit” to Hungary will elevate bilateral relations to a new level, adding that it would open a new chapter in China-Hungary friendship and cooperation, inject impetus into China-EU relations, and provide elements of stability and positive energy to a turbulent world.

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