China’s cooperation with Hungary was never aimed at “dividing” Europe, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said as he wound up talks with counterparts from the region and amid a series of blows to Beijing’s plan to boost engagement.
Wang has praised Hungary’s “friendly attitude” towards China in a bilateral meeting in Guiyang in southwestern Guizhou province, where Wang met three other European counterparts – from Ireland, Serbia and Poland – between Saturday and Monday.
Beijing said “four goals” for the bilateral relationship were agreed on with Budapest during Wang’s meeting on Monday with Peter Szijjarto, Hungarian minister of foreign affairs and trade.
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“On the level of China-Europe relations, China’s cooperation with Hungary was never, and will never be, about dividing Europe. Instead, it is to boost mutual understanding and tolerance, to stand against moves that destroy China-Europe cooperation and to stand against conspiracies that divide the world,” according to the Chinese foreign ministry’s statement on Tuesday.
The four goals related to deepening strategic mutual trust, pursuing high-quality economic cooperation together, encouraging cultural and people-to-people exchange and co-defending international institutions and multilateralism.
In a separate statement, in which Wang concluded the “consensus” between him and all four European counterparts, he said: “We all agree that we should pay attention to and calmly reflect on the current difficulties in China-Europe relations.
“The current difficulties between China and Europe is something China does not wish to see, and it does not serve the fundamental and long-term interests of both sides.”
Wang was referring to the EU-China Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CAI), which was stalled over a week ago when the European Parliament voted overwhelmingly to freeze the ratification. The vote followed China’s counter-sanctioning of EU think tanks and politicians in response to EU sanctions on China over human rights violations in Xinjiang.
Serbia is not a member of the European Union, but the other three – Hungary, Ireland and Poland – are.
Wang’s meeting with his European counterparts was the first since the stalling of the CAI and since Lithuania announced it was dropping out of the “17+1” grouping which is led by China and includes Poland, Hungary and Serbia as members. Lithuania’s declaration in late May – while calling the mechanism “divisive” and urging other EU members to follow suit – is a blow to Beijing’s initiative to engage central and eastern European countries.
Meanwhile, Hungary’s warming relations with China appear to be in contrast with the atmosphere between Beijing and both the EU and the 17+1 grouping.
A statement by the Chinese foreign ministry quotes Hungarian Foreign Minister Szijjarto supporting the signing of the CAI, backing the Beijing narrative that China has never interfered with Europe and stating that Hungary welcomed Huawei Technologies. and other Chinese companies.
His remarks reported in the Chinese statement declaring support for Huawei’s investment in Hungary are unusual, with many European countries being called on by the US to block the Chinese telecoms investment because of “security concerns”, allegations China denies.
The EU has no blanket ban on Huawei being used within the bloc but individual members, including Poland, have issued domestic embargoes. Among the 17+1 bloc, Hungary’s neighbours Estonia, Latvia and former member Lithuania have issued their own bans on the company.
After the meeting between the ministers, the Hungarian government has announced plans to produce the Chinese-developed Sinopharm coronavirus vaccine locally.
Hungary is the only EU country to inoculate its citizens with the Chinese jab after domestic regulators approved its use, breaking with an EU consensus that any Covid-19 shot used inside the bloc would be authorised by the European Medicines Agency and procured via its centralised scheme.
In April, Budapest blocked EU efforts to censure Beijing for its political crackdown in Hong Kong.
This article China-EU relations: warm ties with Hungary are not meant to divide Europe, says Beijing first appeared on South China Morning Post