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China can now police the streets in Hungary

Frederick Lauritzen

12th April 2024


Policemen of China can legally operate in Hungary. It is the first time that foreign security agents work in that country since communism (1949-1989), when Soviet agents could operate there, and since World War Two, when Germany (1944-1945) could police the streets of Hungary.


China’s Minister of Public Security, Wang Xiaohong, and Hungary’s Interior Minister, Sandor Pinter, signed agreements on security in Budapest on February 16th. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán also met the foreign dignitary and hailed the collaboration between China and Hungary. 


The agreement makes it legal for Chinese officers to police the streets. Other countries have informal agreements with China but nothing as formal as the situation now in Hungary. It is a headache for the European Union and Parliament which debated the issue on Wednesday, April 10th.


It is a breach of Max Weber’s notion that the state has a monopoly on violence. In Hungary today there is a duopoly: China and Hungary both have the right to police the streets.


Why police Hungary? The resident Chinese population is 18,154 individuals according to the 2022 census (nothing compared to 100,000 Chinese residents in the city of Prato in Italy). It is not out of a concern for individuals. The Chinese Ministry of Interior now has a legal say within internal policy of Hungary.


Hungary is part of the European Union and has the right of veto in certain areas of policy. It has vetoed the condemnation of China in relation to Hong Kong in 2021 and 2022. All this is the result of a strategic partnership signed in 2017. Hungary is part of the Road and Belt Initiative since 2015. It is also part of NATO and it effectively slowed down the accession of Sweden to the alliance. While it did not block the expansion of NATO it was a remarkable show of force by Hungary (and China).


Russia has not obtained such a concession in Hungary. In Western Europe and the United States, it is often said that Orbán is acting in the interest of Russia. In fact, he is dependent on Chinese foreign policy. Kallipolis has previously argued that Russia’s foreign policy is also defined by China. The largest centre of distribution of the Huawei outside of China is precisely in Hungary. Multiple Chinese factories and a university are planned soon. The agreement had been already discussed in 2018, demonstrating the close relations between China and Hungary, and that it is not the result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. 


Hungary is now a protectorate. China will defend Orbán’s position, in the same way it will defend Lukashenko’s position. It has created a set of Chinese interests to the west of Russia while annexing economically the east of Russia. 


China’s plan is clear: it needs the Hungarian veto within EU policy making. It also needs countries west of Russia to form a sort of belt which will stop Russia from drifting away from China’s grip, if it decides to change policy towards the EU and NATO. The recent elections in Slovakia would also help China with such a policy. It is a Chinese sanitary cordon west of the Russian Federation. Belarus is also part of this plan given that there is an extraterritorial industrial enclave of China at Kamenski Park, a few miles from Minsk. 


When the Russian-Ukrainian war ends, the western border of Russia will be opened for trade. The Trans-Siberian railroad will become the main Chinese transport means towards Europe. The Chinese are repairing and upgrading large stretches of it. Hungary will be the main hub of distribution. The Chinese need to police their interest.

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