Dear reader,

This MapInfluenCE biweekly briefing brings you brand new media discourse analyses on Chinese investment and 5G in the V4, the reaction to a French-German proposal for a summit with Russia, a review of Chinese investment flowing to Poland, and emerging problems with Sinopharm’s efficacy in Hungary.

Here's our analysts' top curated stories:

After a comparative publication in English focusing on media discourse for topics related to China across the Visegrad Group, followed by expanded publications in Czech and Polish, our project is proud to present a thorough and independent analysis of Slovak and Hungarian media. The new research provides a detailed analysis of two topics in the most popular local media, namely Chinese investment in the V4 and China's involvement in 5G rollouts in the region. This research builds on a previous analysis that monitored China's overall media coverage in 2010-2017, forming a detailed analysis of the past decade of regional media portrayal of China. The current research specifically maps sentiment expressed towards topics related to China, depiction of events journalists covered most frequently, and main actors influencing the discussion on these topics.

In recent years, Slovak media has become increasingly skeptical about China, which has been reflected both in the decline of interest of Slovak media outlets in topics related to Chinese investment and in its, broadly speaking, more negative portrayal. The lingering problem for the nation is the apparent absence of a comprehensive public discussion on topics related to China. The lack of a detailed and in-depth discussion is clearly reflected in the media, as a staggering number of media outputs use information solely from news agencies.

For Hungary,  pro-government and, conversely, the opposition or independent nature of the media is fundamentally tied to its output. Pro-government media, as might be anticipated, present China in a more positive light than the independent outlets. Nonetheless, it should be noted that the media do not praise China as such. On the contrary, the central objective is to highlight the success of the Hungarian government in establishing a relationship with China and emphasizing the importance of these bilateral ties. 

However, these are merely fragments from our comprehensive research. Immerse yourself in the amount of data that MapInfluenCE project analysts have collected.

  • EU discrepancy over Russia. Last week's European Council fully exposed the dissonance between key European leaders on Russia policy.  Indeed, just as countries from Central and Eastern Europe, primarily Poland and Lithuania, managed to foil the plans of the German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron to organize a high-level summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The turbulent discussion underscored the discrepancy in desired  EU policy and distressingly illustrated that a comprehensive common ground on how to approach Russia is likely to remain elusive. Paradoxically, the final conclusions on Russia are relatively sharp and state a number of conditions for such a meeting to take place, including ceasing Russian aggression against EU members, implementing the Minsk Peace Accords in relation to Ukraine, and improving the domestic situation in Russia. The EU leaders also proposed additional sanctions in case of non-compliance. The Council’s conclusions also recommitted the EU to the Eastern Partnership policy as well as the so-called Five Guiding Principles for bilateral relations with Russia. The leaders promised a return to the EU policy on Russia, which will inevitably be contested before finding any concrete shape in the future.
  • Poland as a target for Chinese investment. According to the Polish Economic Institute (PIE), Poland found itself at the top of the Chinese investment in EU countries in 2020. Only two countries, namely Germany and France, obtained more Chinese investment. The estimated value of Chinese capital in Poland is about $1 billion, most of which is linked to two major logistics projects. The same numbers are estimated also by MERICS. This amount of investment is also surprising in the context of the pandemic, which has diminished China’s appetite to invest on both global and European level. The rapprochement of China and Poland has also been present at the political level in the previous months. At the same time, Warsaw sends a signal to France and Germany, demonstrating its ability to pursue its own foreign policy towards China. Apart from the EU countries, the recipient of these warning signals is the United States, with which Poland has a tarnished relationship due to the construction of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, which Poland sees as a geopolitical threat.

  • Problems with Sinopharm in Hungary. After almost five months of using Chinese Sinopharm, doubts increase as to its effectiveness. Per recent reports, thousands of inoculated Hungarians are not developing antibodies despite application of both vaccine doses from the Chinese pharmaceutical giant. Whereas the Hungarian government continues to support the vaccine, the criticism is growing among vaccinated residents. Some of these disgruntled citizens turned directly to the mayor of Budapest, Gergely Karácsony, who subsequently called on Prime Minister Viktor Orbán to publish the results of antibody tests. Hungary is the only Member State of the European Union whose local regulatory authority has authorized vaccination with this vaccine, while other countries still await a decision from the European Medicines Agency (EMA). Additionally, Hungary plans to start its own production of Sinopharm in a factory near Debrecen. Hungarian virologists propose the use of a third dose of the vaccine as a possible solution to increase efficacy. In other countries, such as the United Arab Emirates or Bahrain, the recommendation is to take one dose of Pfizer/BioNTech instead of another dose of Sinopharm.
  • How should NATO face the challenge from China and what role can the countries of Eastern and Central Europe play? You can read answers to this question in the article for New Eastern Europe written by the MapInfluenCE founder Ivana Karásková.

  • Slovak analyst Matej Šimalčík commented on the consequences of the declining Chinese population and the Chinese government's efforts to motivate residents to increase the birth rate for the Slovak Hospodárské noviny.

  • What was the atmosphere at the summit between US President Biden and Russian President Putin? This question was explained in detail by Pavel Havlíček for the Slovak television TA3.

  • Filip Šebok and Matej Šimalčík discussed the results of the MapInfluenCE analysis on the media coverage of topics related to China in Slovakia. The recording of the debate is available here.

  • How to protect the European Parliament from authoritarian influences? This and other issues were discussed by the participants of the debate, which was also attended by our analyst Pavel Havlíček. You may find the recording here.

After intensive work on our projects, including organization of many online events, publication of a number of policy papers and articles and frequent occurrences in the media, our team deserves a summer break to gain strength for further continuation. We will return to your e-mail boxes in August. The whole MapInfluenCE team wishes you a beautiful summer.

Best regards

Veronika Blablová

Data Analyst of MapInfluenCE

Newsletter editor: Veronika Blablová

Contributions from: Pavel Havlíček

@MapInfluenCE and #MapInfluenCE








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