How Chinese Investment Props Up Orbán and Erodes Democracy

Clientelist Corruption Is the Name of the Game

10 November 2022

Edit Zgut-Przybylska

Visegrad Insight Fellow

China plays a system-supporting and system-legitimising role in the Orbán regime through investment. It provides lucrative business opportunities for the Hungarian Prime Minister’s clients that help him to maintain power. These strengthened relations also help him to depict Hungary as a key global player, the graces of which are sought even by a superpower.

Only days after the Hungarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs declared that it fully respects the “One China Policy”, the Chinese battery-maker Contemporary Amperex Technology (CATL) announced that it will build a €7.3bn plant in the country’s second biggest city, Debrecen this would be the largest industrial investment in Hungary’s history.

Not only has the investment helped Budapest, but the move has deepened the Slovak governmental crisis after Igor Matovic posted on Facebook that “Hungarians are going like rockets and we look like poor relatives next to them.” The Slovak Finance Minister was referring to the fact that both the Slovak and the Hungarian governments were in competition for the investment.

The final result stems from a decade-long strategy during which the Orbán government further committed itself to a China-friendly policy for pragmatic political reasons.

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Edit Zgut-Przybylska

Visegrad Insight Fellow

Visegrad Insight Fellow and re:constitution fellow. Political scientist and sociologist, a researcher at the Institute of Philosophy and Sociology of the Polish Academy of Sciences. Vice-president of Amnesty International Hungary and a guest lecturer at the Foreign Service Institute of the State Department of the United States. Focusing on informal power and populism in the context of Hungarian and Polish democratic backsliding.

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