Friday, July 19, 2024

China’s Xi receives ceremonial welcome in Hungary ahead of talks with Orban

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Chinese President Xi Jinping received a ceremonial welcome in Hungary’s capital on Thursday ahead of a day of talks with Hungarian officials that are expected to result in further Chinese investments in the central European country.

Hungarian President Tamas Sulyok received Mr Xi in an opulent courtyard of Budapest’s Buda Castle, where the two men walked down a red carpet beside a ceremonial honour guard and listened to the Chinese and Hungarian national anthems.

Numerous Chinese and Hungarian officials attended the ceremony, including Prime Minister Viktor Orban, Hungary’s long-serving populist leader.

Hungarian President Tamas Sulyok receives Chinese President Xi Jinping with military honours (Zoltan Mathe/MTI via AP)

Mr Xi arrived in Hungary late on Wednesday as part of a European tour that also took in Serbia and France.

He will hold talks later with Mr Orban and other officials on potential Chinese investments in infrastructure, energy and electric vehicle manufacturing.

Beijing has invested billions in Hungary and sees the EU member as an important foothold inside the 27-member trading bloc.

In December, Hungary announced that one of the world’s largest EV manufacturers, China’s BYD, will open its first European EV production factory in the south of the country — an inroad that could upend the competitiveness of the continent’s auto industry.

Hungary is also hosting several Chinese EV battery plants and hopes to become a global hub of lithium-ion battery manufacturing.

It has undertaken a railway project to connect the country with the Chinese-controlled port of Piraeus in Greece as an entry point for Chinese goods to central and eastern Europe.

Hungary China
People wave Chinese and Hungarian flags for the Chinese President Xi Jinping outside the Buda Castle in Budapest, Hungary (AP Photo/Denes Erdos)

But unconfirmed media reports suggest China could announce additional investments in EV manufacturing and in developing Hungary’s railway network.

Speaking at a government news conference on Thursday, Mr Orban’s chief of staff Gergely Gulyas said Mr Xi and the prime minister would announce specific agreements later on Thursday but did not provide further information.

Hungary’s foreign minister earlier said at least 16 agreements would be signed during Mr Xi’s visit.

Budapest residents met with road closures and increased security on Thursday, and groups of Mr Xi’s supporters and critics gathered in various points of the city to demonstrate.

Hundreds of people gathered near Budapest’s Buda Castle waving Chinese and Hungarian flags, hoping to catch a glimpse of the motorcade.

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