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China’s Xi arrives in Hungary on last leg of European tour

Chinese President Xi Jinping (L) is greeted warmly by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban as he arrives at Liszt Ferenc Budapest airport at Ferihegy, Hungary, May 8, 2024. (Photo by AFP)

Chinese President Xi Jinping has arrived in the European city of Budapest, the capital of Hungary, on the last leg of his 5-day visit to Europe.

Xi, who is on an official 3-day visit to Hungary, arrived in the Hungarian capital on Wednesday.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who is hosting Xi in hope of expanding the already broad ties between Budapest and Beijing, received the Chinese leader upon his landing.

Orban, who has been pursuing an active “Eastern opening” foreign policy in past years, is Xi's closest ally in the EU.

Xi, ahead of his arrival, released an op-ed published in Hungary’s pro-government Magyar Nemzet daily in Budapest, in which he praised the “long-standing friendship” between the two countries.

"We have gone through hardships together and defied power politics together amid volatile international situations."

“Our bilateral relationship is at its best in history, and has embarked on a golden voyage… On the new journey of the new era, China looks forward to working closely with our Hungarian friends,” he wrote.

During Xi's visit, the two countries are expected to sign at least 16 different agreements promoting their cooperation in rail and road infrastructure, nuclear energy and the automotive industry.

Xi's visit to Hungary is the final leg of the Chinese leader’s 3-leg tour of Europe which kicked off earlier this week.

The Chinese leader began his European tour in France, his third visit to the country since taking office as president in 2013.

Xi met with French president Emmanuel Macron on Monday. Media analysts described the meeting between the two leaders, who were accompanied by their senior advisors, as cordial. However, the meeting also revealed the tensions between Beijing and the EU over the war in Ukraine and global trade.

After France, Xi visited non-EU partner Serbia on the second stop of his 3-leg European visit where met with his Serbian counterpart, Aleksandar Vucic, on Wednesday.

His arrival to Belgrade coincided with the 25th anniversary of the bombing of the Chinese Embassy in the city by US jets during NATO's air war over Kosovo, when three Chinese citizens were killed. The US bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade prompted the two countries to forge closer political and diplomatic ties since then.

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