China has made an alliance with time

The author of this guest post is the Director-General of the House of Terror Museum

“For a nation to survive and prosper, it needs the grace of heaven, the benevolence of the earth, and peace among men.”


In October 2023, as a member of Viktor Orbán’s delegation, I attended the international gathering in Beijing marking the 10th anniversary of the foundation of the New Silk Road, the One Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). I had never been to China before, and despite having read and written about China in dozens of books, especially a about its history, I had not yet had the opportunity to compare what I thought I knew about this vast country with first-hand experiences. Even now, I have only gathered a few impressions and made a few superficial observations – partly because I only went to Beijing and Shenzhen, and partly because the intense schedule of official events and the immense distances placed limitations on what I was able to see.

Beijing welcomed us with blue skies and balmy weather, befitting the most beautiful Indian summer. We did not experience the city’s smog or bad air quality, clearly because access to the city had been restricted on account of the delegations, and perhaps because it had been partly emptied. And of course I saw no bustling crowds, and only a very light traffic on the roads. Of course this was only natural for an event involving 130 delegations. In Beijing our movements were restricted to the innermost area and our convoy only travelled on main roads. The city was spotlessly clean, and the people who had to wait for the delegations to pass through were friendly and did not seem to be impatient. All this was different from the almost overwhelming atmosphere of urgency, anxiety and impatience I experienced in Tokyo and Seoul. There everyone was in a hurry not to be late, and everyone was very busy and conscious of their importance. Here in China I saw kindness, good organisation and teamwork. There is a calmness that comes from the fact that everyone is a link in the chain, everyone knows what their job is, and – provided everything goes according to plan and there are no distractions – they do their job smoothly and naturally. But spontaneity is not their strong suit.

Everywhere we went we were greeted with great attentiveness and respect. While we are not even as large as a medium-sized Chinese city, in negotiations we were regarded as being at the same level, and treated as equals. I have never experienced this in the West, where the message has always been that we should feel honoured to be present at all, and to be spoken to – but we should not imagine that this means we can open our mouths.

Among the things that we should learn from the Chinese are humility, attentiveness, kindness and gestures: the way they honour others, treating them as equals, even when those others are smaller, poorer and more vulnerable than they are.

Viktor Orbán had talks with the following: Premier Li Qiang, who held a banquet in his honour; President Xi Jinping; the chairman of ICBC, the largest bank in China and the world; the chairmen of two other giant banks, China Construction Bank and Bank of China; the Chairman of BYD, the world leader in electric cars; and the founder and chairman of Huawei. Everywhere he was welcomed and invited for talks at the highest level involving meaningful and genuine exchanges of ideas. All of these meetings were attended by the leaders of political, financial and economic life.

President Xi welcomed Prime Minister Orbán like an old friend, recalling that they first met in 2009, when he was Vice President and Viktor Orbán was the leader of Hungary’s main opposition party.

The Chinese negotiators were very disciplined and well-prepared, and gave substantive answers to substantive questions. In this we did not disappoint them either.

Beijing is full of huge buildings, tens of storeys high. At first sight it is pure America – or, in other words, the West. I saw a portrait of Mao Zedong in one place, above the gates of the Forbidden City – which, for lack of time, we were unable to visit. The building of the National People’s Congress on the Square of Heavenly Peace was the site of the official political gatherings: the Presidential Banquet and the Belt and Road forum. This building could have been in Moscow, as it looked like any other socialist realist Soviet building of similar function. What struck me most was that the two cities I saw gave me no impression of being Chinese in character. There was nothing Chinese about the huge skyscrapers or the design of building interiors – apart from the fact that Chinese landscapes hung on some of their walls. I had expected to see motifs and stylistic elements evoking traditional Chinese style or culture – perhaps similar to what I had seen in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, where the interior designs are clearly and identifiably inspired by Arabic motifs. I did not see that here. The exception to this was the Diaoyutai State Guest House in Beijing, where the Premier held a banquet (which was excellent) in an old Chinese pavilion in the middle of a beautiful park with luxuriant greenery. Here the waitresses wore traditional costume and served traditional dishes. The meals typically comprised between twelve and fifteen courses, each more delicious than the last. In several places a modernised form of Chinese fusion cuisine was on offer, which was similarly delicious. Something else in Beijing that struck me was all the greenery and trees – especially my favourite, the weeping willow. This made the vast metropolis – the scale of which I could not fully grasp – feel homely and more agreeable.

The leaders of the giant banks – whose headquarters we visited, and where the delegation’s economic specialists attended their meetings – and the heads of the two world-class companies in Shenzhen welcomed us with Hungarian music: traditional dance music (csárdás), folk songs and excerpts from operettas. One artfully designed dish represented a football pitch, in honour of Puskás, while another was in the shape of a Rubik’s Cube. In Huawei’s magnificent guest house palace we were greeted with a portrait of Albert Szentgyörgyi, and an installation based on the invention of the ballpoint pen, the safety match and the Rubik’s Cube. Meanwhile beautiful young Chinese girls played Monti’s “Csárdás” on Chinese instruments. All this was very touching.

Consideration, respect, attentiveness, courtesy. It would be good to learn something from that.



“All people long for a happy life, yet this is not related to poverty or wealth, but to the heart.”


In his speech on 18 October 2023, on the tenth anniversary of the Silk Road project, President Xi Jinping announced that China will continue to support infrastructure development projects that are created on a win-win basis, with an eye to mutual benefits. “Belt and Road cooperation was proposed by China, but its benefits and opportunities are for the world to share”, he said. He noted that as of 2023, more than 200 programmes had been launched, involving more than 150 countries and 30 international organisations, while the total value of cooperative projects now being planned will reach USD 97.2 trillion. The President summarised the main directions in eight points: logistics development; railways; ports; highways; digital connectivity; worldwide networks; connections between economies; and the enabling of trade expansion. This indicates that China has an interest in an open world economy in which trade is free. So roles have been reversed: China is arguing for free trade, and the Anglo-Saxon countries – along with other former colonial powers – are arguing against it, with protectionism, protective tariffs and trade and economic boycotts. China is at the forefront of green development and innovation, as reflected in its success in developing electric cars and high-speed trains. China is keen to cooperate on technical innovation led by itself, and it is promoting the launch of joint research labs and programmes, collaboration among researchers, the joint exploitation of the potential of artificial intelligence, and the establishment of joint research and training programmes. It is initiating the development of cultural dialogue and reciprocal tourism. China is therefore calling for an open and interconnected world economy. To this end, it is willing to dismantle rules restricting foreign investment, and to grant access to its industrial capacities. China’s trade between 2024 and 2028 is projected to exceed USD 32 trillion.

To achieve all these goals, and to promote a new spring of prosperity, President Xi is establishing a permanent BRI secretariat. This will work with the Chinese leadership for the world to be built on joint cooperation, and to keep the world open, connected and inclusive.

The next speaker was President of Russia Vladimir Putin, followed by President of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev (who spoke first in Chinese and then in Russian), and then the President of Indonesia, who emphasised the importance of equality and the development potential of these infrastructure programmes. He was followed by the leaders of Argentina and Ethiopia. The latter referred to the good relations between his country and China, which began centuries ago during the Ming Dynasty, and which are being crowned by the infrastructure development programme being enacted there – the largest in Africa. All of these leaders said that up to now the Chinese have respected their sovereignty, and that they will continue to build together for as long as this remains true.

The USA was not there, we alone represented the European Union, and the Anglo-Saxons – the British, the Australians and the Canadians – were not there. And India did not go. But over a hundred countries – most of the world – went and responded positively to the Chinese proposal. This means that they acknowledge that China is back at the centre of the world, strong and rich enough to regain its former position.

The benefits of its investments are available to all who want to be part of the network that it creates, finances, and – of course – operates.

So China has something to offer. It offers partnership and cooperation, and does not impose political or ideological conditions (at least not yet).

But what is the counter-offer? At the end of the Second World War the US had one, as did the Soviet Union. One promised a vision of the future based on individual success and the dream of a consumer society; the other painted the image of a collectivist, exploitation-free world. In line with its promise, the US developed the Marshall Plan, and then demonstrated the viability of a consumer society by presenting West Berlin and the West German model as proof that those within it could clearly live more freely and better than those in the Soviet bloc, on the other side of the bipolar world. The Soviets compounded their lack of appeal with terror and coercion.

But what is the current US offer? Threats, blackmail, ideological pressure, financial and economic robbery, the export of democracy: in other words, the imposition of the American way of life on everyone. Soft power politics used to make Americanisation attractive and desirable, but today hard power politics seeks to force it on everyone, everywhere.

And this is provoking resistance.

China arrives with sugar, while the US arrives with bullwhips. This is what should be considered in Washington, by those whose business it is to consider such things. 

China has an interest in development, is ambitious, and is bursting with dynamism.

Chinese people are hard-working, they want to get on in life, and they want to do so through their work and achievements. The Chinese model has always favoured meritocracy – even in earlier times, when the ranks in public offices and the officer corps, and people’s places in the hierarchy were determined by birth. In the developed West in recent times, positive discrimination based on race and gender is applied, making it impossible to achieve advancement on the basis of quality and performance.

China is a country of peace, while the West is constantly at war. Yet development and peace are two sides of the same coin. The development of infrastructure, logistics and digital connectivity is only possible in peacetime. The US, however, is constantly fighting proxy wars, exporting democracy, and has become locked into its role as the world’s policeman, while neglecting its own citizens and betraying its own mission.

It has nothing to offer the American people or the world. This is the source of all its problems.

China presents a huge challenge to the USA. The match is not yet decided, but the teams are on the pitch and the referee has given the signal for the kick-off.

By the time the final whistle sounds, everything will have been decided.

There will be no replay.

The Hungarian version of this blog post was originally published on Látószög Blog.