Dear reader,

in this newsletter: Orbán retreats over Fudan, China takes center stage at G7 and NATO summits, Warsaw worries over US policy in CEE, Czech Senate acknowledges genocide happening in China.

Controversy over the planned campus of the Chinese Fudan University in Budapest led to a rare retreat by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. Facing public criticism and protests over the gigantic €1.5 billion project that would mostly be pocketed by Hungarian taxpayers, the Hungarian government promised to submit the plan to a referendum that would take place after the 2022 elections.

In a matter of weeks, China has suddenly become a big issue in Hungarian domestic politics. The opposition has managed to mobilize itself around the Fudan project, which in its view symbolizes the corrupted nature of the Orbán government and its tilting towards the East. If you missed it, our sister project CHOICE has a great write up on the issue from Hungarian journalist Szabolcs Panyi

To attract attention to the project, Budapest mayor and Orbán’s would-be election contender, Gergely Karácsony, announced the renaming of the streets around the proposed campus to “Free Hong Kong Road”, “Dalai Lama Road”, and “Uygur Martyrs’ Road”. Karácsony also said that he and other opposition leaders are planning to write a letter to the Chinese leader Xi Jinping, saying they will scrap the plans for the campus if they win the upcoming elections.

China was caught off-guard by the harsh reaction to the Fudan plans. The usually silent Embassy published a curiously personal post on Facebook, advising Karácsony to “keep [his] ‘gentlemanly demeanor’ and [not to] loose lips to avoid making a big joke when talking about China in the future”.

Still, Beijing is aware that the incident will probably not bring about a change in the longstanding pro-China direction of the Orbán government. With its repeated vetoes of the proposed joint actions on Hong Kong on the EU level, Hungary has proved a valuable ally to Beijing. However, Beijing will now have to take into account the fact that the Hungarian public opinion, which has long been negative towards China, may play a bigger role in Budapest‘s approach going forward, as argued by our analyst Matej Šimalčík.

  • China carries the agenda of G7 and NATO summits. The receding pandemic has allowed for a flurry of in-person summitry in Europe in recent weeks. Leaders of G7 nations and other invited countries first met in Cornwall, United Kingdom. This was followed by a NATO summit and finally, the US-EU summit in Brussels. The G7 has unveiled the Western alternative to the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), called Build Back Better World Partnership (B3W). Not many details are known about the ambitious plan for now, however, it seeks to focus on issues where China is seen as lacking - environmental sustainability, transparency, and promotion of democratic values. At the NATO summit, the leaders adopted a final communique that used the harshest language on China so far, echoing the EU language of China posing “systemic challenges” to international order and NATO security. The “hard security” issues of increasing military cooperation with Russia and a growing nuclear arsenal were noted next to China‘s use of disinformation. However, the differences among the Alliance members in the perception of the China challenge were prominently on display. The French President Emmanuel Macron bluntly remarked that “China is not in North Atlantic” and cautioned against diverting NATO’s attention towards China. German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s assessment of the issue is undoubtedly quite similar, showing that forming a united approach towards China will not be a walk in the park.

  • Polish concerns over US policy grow. The recent decision by the Biden administration to lift the Nord Stream 2 sanctions has made the Polish government rather unhappy, to put it lightly. In an interview for Polish media, Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau lamented the US decision, saying it was taken without consulting Poland and other Eastern European countries, despite the previous pledge from Washington. Moreover, Rau criticized Biden for not finding the time to meet Eastern European leaders on his visit to Europe, prioritizing a summit with Putin instead. From Warsaw, it seems that the US is focusing its attention on Germany and Russia, neglecting the interests of smaller countries in between. This dissatisfaction may also partly explain the recent cozy relationship between Warsaw and Beijing, although no strategic realignment is to be expected. The views of China remain conflicted in Poland, as evidenced also by the new MapInfluenCE study on the Polish media discourse on China from our analyst Alicja Bachulska.

  • Pressure for a boycott of the Beijing Olympics increases. Czech Senate passed a resolution that condemns China for committing genocide, crimes against humanity, and other massive infringement of human rights. Prior to that, the Chinese government‘s policy in Xinjiang has already been acknowledged as genocide by two other EU nation’s parliaments - the Netherlands and Lithuania. Due to the rapidly worsening human rights situation in the country, China has been facing a growing wave of criticism. This has included calls for the boycott of the upcoming Winter Olympic Games in Beijing, echoed also in the Czech Senate’s resolution. China routinely reacts very harshly to these calls - the Chinese Embassy in Prague called the Senate resolution an “outrageous move” and a “political manipulation” of the Olympic Games. We will most likely not witness an all-out boycott of the games similar to those in the 1980s. However, the absence of a number of leaders of predominantly Western nations can be expected. 
  • Leader of the MapInfluenCE project Ivana Karásková was a guest of the China Global podcast hosted by the excellent Bonnie Glaser from the German Marshall Fund, talking about Chinese vaccine diplomacy (listen here).
  • China‘s new anti-foreign sanctions law can have a significant impact on foreign companies operating on the Chinese market, argues our Matej Šimalčík (read here).
  • Commenting on new measures limiting US investment in Chinese military and surveillance companies, MapInfluenCE analyst Tamás Matura argues that the US may prioritize long-term strategic gains over the short-term financial loss (read here).

All Quiet on the Eastern Flank? Reflections after the June 2021 NATO Summit

June 21 2021, 16.00 CET

Ivana Karásková will be one of the guests of the discussion about Transatlantic security in the context of the NATO and EU-US summits. Ivana will be talking about the changing perception of the threat posed by China and discuss whether there is a consensus on the issue on the two sides of the Atlantic.

Register here.

Do you like our newsletter? Is there something you would like us to improve or is there something we are missing? Hit us up with your suggestions. Feedback is always welcome!

Best regards

Filip Šebok
Project Manager of MapInfluenCE

Newsletter editor: Filip Šebok

Contributions from: Pavel Havlíček

@MapInfluenCE and #MapInfluenCE








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