China offers to back Hungary in security matters

China offered to support long-time strategic partner Hungary on public security matters, going beyond trade and investment relations, during a rare meeting with Prime Minister Viktor Orban, just as NATO struggles to expand its network in Europe.

China hopes to deepen law enforcement and security ties with Hungary as the two mark their 75th year of diplomatic relations, Public Security Minister Wang Xiaohong told Orban last week, the official Xinhua news agency said.

During a visit to Budapest, Wang said he hoped such efforts would be “a new highlight of bilateral relations” in areas such as combating terrorism and transnational crimes.

They would also encompass security and law enforcement capacity building under President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative, which aims to link China with the world through trade and infrastructure links.

Wang also met Interior Minister Sandor Pinter and signed documents on law enforcement and security co-operation, Xinhua said on Sunday, but did not give details.

China’s security assurance comes as Hungary a Russian ally, has worked to dilute its dependence on Western countries in the past decade under Orban, recently resisting pressure to approve the expansion of NATO in Europe.

Hungary is the only NATO state that has not ratified Sweden’s application to join the security bloc.

China has been critical of NATO, especially after the bloc said last year that Beijing had challenged its interests, security and values with its “ambitions and coercive policies”.

Chinese state media have called NATO a “grave” challenge to global peace and stability.

The security pact with Hungary represents a diplomatic win for China in the European Union, as the bloc weighs its ties with the world’s second-largest economy over differences on human rights, trade imbalances and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The central European country’s growing affinity to Beijing has already put a wedge in the EU’s collective front.

On several occasions, Hungary has stood aside or opposed EU positions critical of China on issues such as human rights, and welcomed Chinese investments despite the EU’s call for members to align relations with China in line with those of the bloc.

Hungary is home to Huawei Technologies’ largest logistics and manufacturing base outside China, despite European Commission warnings that the telecom giant poses a risk to EU security.

Since 2016, Huawei has partnered with Shanghai-based artificial intelligence firm Yitu Technology to work on solutions for smart cities to enhance public safety and policing with the use of AI and surveillance.

Hungary will soon host Chinese carmaker BYD’s first European factory.