Many American conservatives have a soft spot for Viktor Orbán because of his rhetorical and ideological affinity with Donald Trump and Trumpism, as well his uncanny ability to “own” Europe’s liberals. Under his watch, the Hungarian government openly weighed in in favor of Trump’s reelection last year and even flirted with conspiracy theories about supposed voter fraud in the United States.
Here’s a paradox. Despite his status as the former president’s best friend in Europe, the Hungarian prime minister has also relentlessly pursued deeper economic and political ties with China, the country Trump himself identified as America’s main geopolitical foe.
The Hungarian government’s firm embrace of Beijing dates back to 2010, when the right-wing populist Fidesz party returned to power after two terms in the opposition. Orbán became prime minister as a result of those elections. He praised the Chinese Communist Party regime in 2011 because it “was not dominated by that Western, liberal idea that fiddling with the books is the way to get the best economic indicators. There, work is the foundation.”
Before concerns over Chinese influence were on anybody’s radar in Washington or Brussels, Hungary hosted a series of high-profile summits with China, struck cooperation agreements, and attracted Chinese investment. In June 2011, Huawei announced it would establish its European logistics center in Hungary. Chinese company also took control of Borsodchem, a major Hungarian chemicals manufacturer, in a $1.66 billion deal.