By Global Times
Budapest mayor Gergely Karacsony announced on Wednesday that he will rename streets in the vicinity where the Shanghai-based Fudan University plans to open its new campus. The proposed provocative street signs include “Dalai Lama Street” and “Free Hong Kong Road.”
His announcement immediately become a topic among Western public opinion and was overly interpreted.
Hungary is one of the Central and Eastern European countries that has been developing friendly relations with China most actively. When it comes to some sensitive issues, the country’s attitude toward China is particularly prominent within the EU. For instance, Hungary opposed the EU imposing sanctions on Chinese officials over the Xinjiang-related issues. It was the first EU country to use China’s Sinopharm vaccine against COVID-19.
Karacsony is the leader of a small opposition party in Hungary. He launched his bid to become the prime minister candidate on behalf of Hungary’s six opposition parties. To this end, he needs to make waves by attacking the incumbent government’s China policy. Misleading voters and creating confrontation over the new campus of Fudan University has become his gimmick.
Political infighting is the internal affairs of Hungary, but it is affecting cooperation projects between China and Hungary. This shows that some deep-rooted prejudice against China does exist in Europe’s opinion sphere and can easily be exploited by those with ulterior motives. These forces aim at either finding fault with China or triggering political infighting by launching an anti-China crusade, or both.
Hungarian society is generally friendly toward China. China was Hungary’s largest source of foreign investment last year. In the first quarter of this year, trade between the two countries increased 64.7 percent compared with the same period last year. But occasional hostile gestures from Hungary would be normal in the future. China must be capable of dealing with various troubles and risks associated with these gestures.
The Budapest branch of Fudan University is not the first Chinese universities going abroad. In 2012, Soochow University in Laos, an affiliate school of Soochow University in Suzhou, was officially opened in Vientiane. Shanghai-based Tongji University opened a campus in Florence, Italy in 2014. In 2016, Xiamen University Malaysia Campus officially came into operation.
In recent years, the US has led its allies to become more ideological in their relations with China. Hungary may face more pressure. Karacsony’s statement showed the pressure could partly turn into criticism over the Fudan project. Fudan University should get prepared for this.
China’s institutions need to be resilient as they exchange with the world. At the same time, the Chinese public also needs to be tolerant to unfavorable information. The process in which China continues growing stronger is the process that Chinese institutions go international. Expanding the scale of business means the institutions must be able to handle the different reactions they encounter. There will always be some sort of resistance against China and Chinese institutions. What’s important is we should accurately define the losses resulting from such resistance and take adequate measures.
Most partners of China have some domestic uncertainties. There have also been twists and turns in the cooperation between China and some of them. But in retrospect, it can be seen that the uncertainties haven’t influenced the cooperation as they seem to do in the beginning. Most cooperation has withstood the test. China has managed to become the largest trading partner of over 120 countries and regions. Chinese investment is increasingly welcome in most parts of the world.
China should stay calm and optimistic. The achievements it has made during the opening-up are the capital that China can rely on in the face of various complex situations. In front of such capital, politicians such as Karacsony are more like clowns. It is hoped that his extreme provocations can be restricted under Hungary’s rule of law. But if that doesn’t happen, the Chinese people don’t need to be angry – we just need to respond in the way we should.