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Xi concludes the European tour with an emphasis on stronger ties with Hungary

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Chinese leader Xi Jinping concluded his European tour with a visit to Budapest, where he praised his deepening relationship with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.

“We have experienced hardships together and braved power politics together amid volatile international situations,” Xi wrote in an open letter to Hungary on Thursday, calling Budapest-Beijing cooperation “as smooth and rich as Tokaji wine.”

The close relationship between Xi and Orbán stands in stark contrast to both leaders’ relations with the European Union. Xi’s previous visit to France was relatively tense, with French President Emmanuel Macron and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen pressing him to support Ukraine and change China’s approach to trade.

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China’s partnership with Russia under scrutiny during Xi visit

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Source: South China Morning Post

China and Russia have an “unlimited partnership,” and Beijing has refrained from condemning Moscow for its large-scale invasion of Ukraine. That has been a point of contention between China and the West, with ties becoming “confrontational” in recent years, according to the South China Morning Post. Chinese analysts blame the West for deteriorating ties between Europe and Beijing: Wang Yiwei, director of the Center for European Union Studies at China’s Renmin University, told the SCMP that “when they realized that economic sanctions could not defeat Russia , they blamed China… it is the West that has brought Russia closer to China.”

Xi wanted to strengthen ties with Europe and show divisions against the US

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Source: Chatham House

Xi likely hopes that his visit to Europe has softened some of the damage done to China-Europe relations in recent years, preventing them from further falling apart as has been the case with the US, Yu Jie wrote , a senior researcher on China at Chatham. House. Xi strategically chose France, Hungary and Serbia for his tour. She noted: “Xi’s visits will serve to highlight the divisions within Europe over the war in Ukraine and relations with the US.” Meanwhile, “the trip also highlights the extent to which China’s long-standing geopolitical competition with the US has already limited Beijing’s choice of European partners and consumers.”

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Trip was largely ‘unproductive’

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Source: Financial Times

Xi shunned the opportunity to strengthen ties with Europe, choosing instead to “sow division,” according to the Financial Times. The Chinese leader’s trip to Serbia coincided with the 25th anniversary of NATO’s bombing of Belgrade, and Xi took the opportunity to criticize the alliance. In Hungary, Xi was able to emphasize his strong ties with one of the EU’s most disruptive members. “Xi seemed to think he could avert the risk of tariff barriers by exploiting Europe’s fault lines,” the FT editorial board argued. “Yet its confidence underestimates the extent to which the majority of EU countries now see China as both a security threat” and an economic threat, it added.

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