Shanghai-based Fudan University will establish an office in Hungary in 2024. Hungary has a strong ambition on China’s side, and last year it became the first country to sign China’s BRI agreement in the EU.
To Hungary the EU’s first Chinese university campus rises.
The Shanghai-based Fudan University office is scheduled to open in Budapest in 2024. Hungary will donate € 2.2 million to Fudan for construction work.
The arrival of a top university is good news, but there is another tone for Hungary. Just a year and a half earlier, Hungary smoked from the country on the fake grounds of the top university CEU.
Fudan is a high quality university. For example, in the QS university ranking, it is in 34th place. The best Finnish university in the same list is the University of Helsinki in 104th place.
Fudan has a reputation as a liberal university in Chinese. There has never been full academic freedom there either. As in all Chinese educational institutions, teaching is controlled by the Communist Party. After the Tiananmen massacre in 1989, China took on even tighter training to prevent the spread of ideas that threatened the party’s power on campuses.
Until ten years ago, however, Fudan could cautiously deal with Chinese taboos such as Taiwan, Tibet, and Tiananmen.
President Xi Jinpingin during the reign, the screw has also tightened in Fudan. In December 2019, freedom of speech was also officially removed from the school’s goals. Now teaching is strictly supervised, and lectures are often incense from the Chinese nation-state.
In the Chinese universities still have a lot of co-operation with European universities. Fuda could have set up a campus in London or Paris.
Hungary seems to be a safer choice, as Hungary’s education policy has rapidly become increasingly centralized – and, like China, increasingly nationalist. In Hungary, Fudan does not have to fear host country reactions.
The incense of academic freedom in Hungary culminated in the smoking of the Central European University (CEU) from the country in 2017–19.
Hungarian-born big investor and billionaire George Soros founded the CEU in 1991. It was to serve as a herald of liberalism in the countries of the Eastern bloc after the fall of communism.
The goal was to establish a high-quality American college to strengthen Eastern bloc societies so that communism could not rise. Now, 30 years later, it is seen that the goal was not achieved.
In 2017, Hungary enacted a law that required a foreign university in Hungary to operate in its home country as well. The law was tailored against the CEU, which was set up specifically for Central Europe.
CEU the expulsion from Hungary was a strange operation, the root cause of which is still unclear. The law was prepared in secret and ran through in just a couple of days. The ruling party Fidesz suddenly began calling the CEU “Soros University,” even though Soros had withdrawn from the university as early as 2010. At the same time, Fidesz drummed a mud-throwing campaign against Soros that completely falsely linked the EU and Soros to the 2015 migration crisis.
As many as 80,000 Hungarians protested in the streets against the eviction of the university, and 20 Nobel laureates and more than 200 universities around the world appealed on behalf of the university. Support was given by the author Mario Vargas Llosa and the German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Prestigious American politicians, Republicans John McCain and Democrats Chuck Schumer appealed to the Prime Minister Viktor Orbániin by letter.
Maybe that’s what it was about.
The tactic of Orbán’s populism is to try to show that the whole world is against them. Orbán joined the protests in defense of the CEU as an attempt by EU elites to influence Hungarian immigration policy, even though things had nothing to do with each other.
CEU now operates in Vienna, although about one-fifth of the teaching still remained in Budapest.
China established a co-operation group for the former Eastern European countries in Budapest in 2012, now called 17 + 1. It was feared that the group of countries would become a Trojan horse within the EU.
Doubts have proved to be exaggerated and the cooperation program can be described as a pancake. The Czech distance to China, for example, ended in a complete break, and other states are tired of the group that remained a discussion club.
Coveted Chinese investment has fallen far less than countries would have liked. In 2010–2019, EUR 8.6 billion in direct investments were made for the entire group of countries, while in the same period China invested EUR 12 billion in Finland.
However, Hungary has its own chapter.
Hungary has been approaching China with determination since the early 2000s. Hungary has received the most Chinese investments from Eastern Central European countries, for example from Huawei and Chinese banks, although not nearly as much as it would have liked: Finland has more Chinese investments compared to GDP.
Hungary’s difference to almost all EU countries is that Hungary still does not seem to see China’s influence as a threat of any kind, but seems to be working deeper and deeper into China’s arms. Even the opposition does not oppose it.
When Wuhan was closed in January 2020 due to the coronavirus, Hungary sent health supplies to China. When the disease reached Hungary, China sent a counter-gift and a lot of warm thoughts.
“The Hungarian government and Hungarians of all kinds have helped China in many ways in its fight against covid-19 disease, and it will never be forgotten by China,” the Chinese ambassador to Budapest wrote in his article infusing friendship between peoples. In the Global Times.
The negotiating table was then reached.
In April, Hungary was the first EU country to sign the Belt & Road BRI agreement and its € 1.6 billion loan. A loan from Belgrade to Budapest will be completed with Chinese loan money.
It is a little unclear what Hungary will benefit from the agreement. For the Chinese, the project is risk-free: Hungary has granted an interest rate guarantee on the loan, and the track contract will go to the Chinese. Only 150 kilometers of the track pass on the Hungarian side.
Anything it is no secret or ambiguous that Hungary and China are ideologically close to each other. Orbán wants to rule as an “illiberal democracy” that doesn’t have to care about the opposition.
Hungary is, in effect, a one-party state, as is China. The judiciary and political decision-making are in the hands of the ruling party Fidesz at national and local level. The opposition usually has no real chance of blocking Fidesz bills or even changing the balance of power in elections.
China is also offering Orbán more cards to play in the EU. The EU has recalled the rule of law, but it has been unarmed to intervene in Orbán, who is adept at blackmailing, promising and blackmailing again.