By Tom McGregor, freelancer based in Beijing
President Xi Jinping goes big and bold on China’s global economic proposals. His vision for the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) has captured the world’s attention. He is also moving forward on more free trade deals with other countries, which can create an even bigger impact. Yet, the ‘One Belt One Road’ initiative is expected to outshine everything else.
According to the Website, Shanghaiist, the modern Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road has been initiated to develop trade and transportation infrastructure across the Asian and European continents. President Xi believes that sovereign nations participating could generate as much as much as $2.5 trillion more in total trade in 10 years.
Hungary jumps on board
Hungary stands as the first EU (European Union) member state to sign an accord with China to cooperate on the ‘One Belt One Road’ network. Last weekend, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his Hungarian counterpart Peter Szyjjarto signed the agreement in Budapest.
“Today, we signed the ‘One Belt One Road’ cooperation document, which is first such cooperation document between China and a European country,” Beijing Review magazine quotes FM Wang as saying. “It … will be a role model. The Chinese side appreciates that the Hungarian side is taking on the role and encourages others to join the process.”
Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban has made efforts to boost ties with China and visited President Xi in Beijing last year. Budapest has launched a ‘Look East’ campaign marking China as its prominent Asian partner.
Paving a Central European gateway for China
Hungary seeks to become the premier economic player in the Central European region. The nation hopes to grab more trade and investment deals with Chinese companies. Budapest hosted the ‘CEEC’s (Central East European Countries)-China Cooperation and ‘One Belt One Road’’ symposium last May, which was organized by Hungary’s Institute for Foreign Affairs & Trade and Chinese diplomats were in attendance.
The keynote speaker was Huo Yuzhen, a special representative for China-CEEC cooperation promoting the ‘New Silk Road’ for the region. She said, “China needs to become more open to the outside world and to deepen its integration into the world economy while promoting the development of the countries involved with the project,” as reported by the Shanghai Daily.
She added that CEE countries, especially Hungary, act as the “bridge connecting Asia, Europe, the Mediterranean and the Baltics. There’s huge development potential for boosting cooperation in trade, investments, finance, tourism, education, and agriculture and people-to-people exchanges.”
Hungary is hungry for Chinese business deals
Hungary’s trade with the rest of the EU totaled EUR 156 billion in 2014, but its trade with China only amounted to EUR 6 billion for the same year. Budapest sees much more trade potential with the country. The nation hopes to lure in more Chinese foreign direct investments as well.
The Beijing Review quotes Hungzrian FM Szyjjarto as saying that, “It is still the goal of Hungary’s sovereign foreign policy that the nation be the starting point and the regional center of China’s economic expansion in Europe.”
Hungary has drawn Chinese telecom giant ZTE, mobile phone maker Huawei and Bank of China as their regional centers. Meanwhile, the National Bank of Hungary is preparing an RMB foreign exchange portfolio and establishing RMB liquidity instruments to deal with RMB cross-border activities of Chinese banks.
Nevertheless, some say that the pace remains too slow in regards to China-Hungary economic development ties. But Tomas Nadasi, head of the Hungarian-Chinese section of the Hungarian Chamber of Commerce & Industry, offers sage advice for would-be investors. “To make business with China, you need patience, patience and patience,” he told the Budapest Telegraph. “Before serious deals take shape, investments need to be made and the relations need to be expanded.”
Hungary can inspire Europe to join ‘One Belt One Road’
As Hungary recognizes the true value of its strong relations with China, the rest of Europe may soon follow and sign accords to expand the ‘New Silk Road’ network. Hungary has become the gateway of the European market for China and Budapest relishes such an important role.
( The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Panview or CCTV.com. )