PM Viktor Orbán’s speech at the conference “China-CEE Political Parties Dialogue” [full text in English]
Budapest, October 6, 2016
Allow me to welcome Mr. Liu Yunshan, the leader of the Chinese delegation, and Ambassador Tuan Chie-lung. I also wish to welcome every member of the Chinese delegation, and the leaders of the Central and Eastern European parties.
This is a special conference. I have been a Member of Parliament since 1990 – for twenty-six years – and I remember those times well. We were intrigued about a great many questions, such as the transformation of our societies, and their repositioning on the international scene. If someone had told us twenty-six years ago, after the first free parliamentary elections, that twenty-six years down the line we would meet here, in Budapest, at the regional international conference of the Communist Party of China, no doubt we would have just smiled in disbelief. Twenty-six years ago we would not have thought that the world would head in this direction. Twenty-six years ago the mere thought that there would be a conference organised by the Communist Party of China in Budapest, at which we would attempt to understand world development trends and issues related to the cooperation of China with sixteen countries; well, the very idea would have seemed absurd at the time. Yet this is just what has happened.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
European parties do not usually meet in such circles. Dear Chinese Friends, there are no conferences like this in Europe. In Europe conferences are strictly organised on the basis of party families, and everyone only concerns themselves with their own kind: the socialists with the socialists, the conservatives with the conservatives, the liberals with the liberals. This is the way things are in Europe. And now, if you look around, you will see that there are European political parties here from different party families, committed to completely different ideologies; and yet here we are today, together pondering one of the important questions for the future. If this had been the sole purpose of the Communist Party of China in organising this conference, then already this would be a highly valuable meeting. I believe that we must value the forms of meetings and conferences – such as this one today – which cross the boundaries which conventionally divide European party families. Therefore we are grateful to our Chinese friends for having organised such a special party meeting here, in Budapest.
Furthermore, it is a great honour for Hungary that one of the world’s most intensively developing economies is showing such great interest in our region. In recent years cooperation between China and Central Europe in a variety of fields has not been a mere curiosity, but a firm intention. We are observing a sign of this kind of attention now, when China is represented here by one of its leading politicians and Hungary has the honour of hosting this meeting.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Guests,
Today we have gathered together in a spirit of dialogue. Philosophers have told us that a fundamental condition for reasonable dialogue is that the participants have at least one shared premise. Luckily, Central European countries and China do not just have one shared premise, but several.
Our first shared premise is that we have realised that it serves our best interests if we open up towards each other. China is open towards Europe – this policy is called “One Belt, One Road”; meanwhile Hungary – like other Central European countries – announced the policy of “Eastward Opening” at around the same time. This policy has led us to the aim of rebuilding the Silk Road, which in the past benefited both Europe and China. We are working towards linking what is now the world’s strongest economic power centre and Europe’s prospective – or perhaps current – growth hub.
It is now obvious that the world economy’s centre of gravity is shifting from West to East; while there is still some denial of this in the Western world, that denial does not seem to be reasonable. We see the world economy’s centre of gravity shifting from the Atlantic region to the Pacific region. This is not my opinion – this is a fact. We are also all aware that the world’s four largest economies in the twenty-first century will be located in the Pacific region. On the other hand, Dear Chinese Friends, it is also obvious that Central Europe is a great hope for the future. This is Europe’s most dynamically developing region. It is true that the economies of Europe’s western half are richer than ours, and for historical reasons they have been able to accumulate more capital and wealth. But looking at the development, the growth, the trends, and the profile of this strengthening, and also looking at the European economies’ growth figures, we see that the European economy’s growth engine is currently located in Central Europe. If we were to remove the economies of our more than a dozen countries, if we were to remove the economic performance of these countries from Europe’s total economic performance, there would be no economic growth in Europe, only stagnation. This clearly demonstrates that in Europe today Central Europe is the hope for the future.
Dear Chinese Friends,
The second premise upon which our dialogue rests is that we have a vested interest in each other’s success. This sounds like a stock platitude, but in politics it is not at all obvious. This means that we sixteen countries believe that we have a vested interest in China’s success, and we believe that China also has a vested interest in the success of the Central European countries. As we are living in the era of a major shift in the world economy, the fact that European countries have an interest in China’s success is not at all self-evident. In order for us to have an interest in China’s success, we must change our global way of thinking: we must recognise, we must accept, we must understand that the world’s entire population, humanity, cannot be successful without the success of its largest country. And if we stand on truly Christian foundations – as do quite a few countries in attendance here – then in any event we should welcome the strength possessed by China to raise people from poverty, to modernise, and to contribute to raising the world’s level of prosperity as a whole. This is something which we have an interest in.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I believe that on this issue there is agreement between us. If this is the case, following the efforts of recent years, we can say that the time has come to raise the cooperation existing between us to a higher level – from the level of cooperation to the level of strategic partnership. We could perhaps target the signing of an agreement next year which would aim at strategic cooperation between Central Europe and China. Naturally over the course of time such strategic cooperation schemes are only meaningful if they are not just mere declarations, but have a body of content. The economic dimension of relations between the Central European countries and China is rich and meaningful. What we now also need to do is give meaningful content to our political relations. Because in Europe, based on the people’s will, political power is exercised by political parties, it seems logical that we should also raise the level of inter-party cooperation to a higher plane.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am convinced that we need inter-party relations which are based on mutual understanding, and that we should understand each other without the need for either side to change. This is at odds with the conventional Western way of thinking. According to the conventional Western way of thinking, the West represents a superior ideal and culture. This is laid down in various international doctrines, and the West expects other regions of the world to also embrace these. I believe we should make it clear that we Hungarians are not enthusiastic about the export of various political and economic systems. We hold that each house has its own customs. We believe that each nation has its own character, and that this is embodied in specific and unique political systems. And this is something which should be respected. Therefore we, for our part, also look upon the Chinese political system in this spirit. The Chinese political system is a matter for the Chinese people, just as the Hungarian political system is a matter for the Hungarian people. No one has the right to interfere with this by adopting the role of a kind of self-appointed judge. With this in mind, we see this forum as a valuable opportunity, because it gives us Central Europeans the opportunity to understand the thinking of Chinese politicians in greater depth and breadth. This is essential for enabling relations to strengthen.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would also like to make it clear to you that Hungary continues to be committed to cooperation between China and Central Europe, and to rebuilding the Silk Road. To this end, we must build the section of the road which connects our region to China, and we must create an economic cooperation scheme which guarantees the flow of goods on this route. It is in this spirit that we are building the Budapest–Belgrade railway line together with our Chinese friends. The corridor which leads from the Port of Piraeus is a priority project, and it will be a route which can accelerate the flow of goods between Central Europe, Europe and China. I would like to say a few things in relation to us Hungarians. Last year we managed to break a trade record: Chinese-Hungarian trade grew by 170 per cent, and according to data from the first seven months of 2016, this year there has been an eighty per cent increase in Chinese-Hungarian trade. In Hungary over the last few years we have created one of Europe’s most competitive investment environments, and in this respect we are pleased to see that several Central European countries are also highly successful. We are pleased about the success of the other Central European countries – including our neighbours – because we are convinced that the countries of this region can only become truly valuable through cooperation, and a regional approach.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We sincerely hope that, in line with the Chinese “Going Global Strategy”, Chinese investment will also multiply in this region. I would also like to inform you that we have recently renewed the currency swap agreement worth ten billion yuan which was concluded earlier by the People’s Bank of China and the National Bank of Hungary. I would further like to inform you that the Bank of China opened its regional centre in Budapest in December 2014, and the Central European region has also become a renminbi clearing centre. Furthermore, Hungary has submitted its request to join the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. Next June Hungary will host the 3rd China-Central Europe Health Ministers’ Forum, and we are also ready to host the heads of state and government summit for the China-Central Europe cooperation in the second half of 2017. I am telling you this for the sake of our guests: here in Hungary – in Budapest – we have a Chinese elementary school, with secondary education also from September. This school is also sponsored by the Government of China, and we wish to take this opportunity to thank them. In China there are more and more higher education institutions offering Hungarian language instruction, and there are Hungarian language courses at universities of international studies. We are also proud that the China-Central and Eastern European Tourism Coordination Centre was opened in Budapest in 2014. We welcome the fact that the China National Tourism Administration opened its first representation office in Hungary. We urge the enhancement of relations between the two countries with new flights and new destinations.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
You can see that we are talking about intensifying cooperation between two dynamically developing regions – even though their relative sizes are different. We are proud, Dear Chinese Friends, that Central Europe has become the European continent’s engine of growth. We are likewise proud that the results of the investments of Chinese businesses in this region also play a part in this. We welcome the fact that Chinese companies are acquiring an increasing share in the Central European and European economy. We are convinced that Chinese production capital, which represents high added value, can find its way into Europe through the gateway of Central Europe. This is a great opportunity for us, for Central Europeans. I would therefore like to make Hungary’s position clear. We do not accept restrictions of any kind on cooperation between China and our region. We are convinced that what is good for Central Europe and China serves not only the best interests of China and Central Europe, but also those of the entire European continent – including the European Union. So today we can attend a meeting which is useful and important not only for China, and not only for Central Europe, but for the whole of the European Union. Allow me to thank our Chinese friends once again for having come here and having organised this conference.
I wish you all a productive meeting. Thank you for your attention.