He Who Drinks the Water of the Tisza Longs to Be Back There
State Councilor Dai Bingguo's Interview
15 May 2011
State Councilor Dai Bingguo was in Hungary from 12 to 15 May 2011 for the second round of the China-EU High-Level Strategic Dialogue and a visit to the country. He co-chaired the Strategic Dialogue with High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton and had a candid and in-depth exchange of views with her on China-EU cooperation as well as international and regional issues of mutual interest. During his visit to Hungary, State Councilor Dai met with President Pal Schmitt, Prime Minister Viktor Orban, Minister of National Development Tamas Fellegi, Deputy State Secretary for Global Affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Janos Hovari, and Former Prime Minister Peter Medgyessy. He had candid and friendly discussions with them on developing China-Hungary friendship and cooperation and other issues of mutual interest. Before he left Hungary, State Councilor Dai gave a joint interview to Hungarian and Chinese media.
Q: We know that you once served as China's ambassador to Hungary for two years. How do you feel to be back?
A: Hungary is a fascinating and beautiful country endowed with human talents and rich resources. For me, coming to Hungary is unlike going to any other country, because both my father-in-law and I have a special bond with Hungary. Around 20 years ago, I had the honor to serve as China's ambassador to Hungary and spent a most memorable time here. And prior to that, 60 years ago, my father-in-law worked here as China's first ambassador to Hungary. As a Hungarian saying goes, "He who drinks the water of the Tisza longs to be back there." I have had few opportunities to revisit Hungary during the past 20 years, but this beautiful land along the Danube has always been on my mind, and I have been following closely the growth of China-Hungary relations all these years. Now I have taken a long trip to be here again. I feel excited and very much at home. The development, changes and progress in Hungary over the past 20 years is really impressive and heartening.
The Chinese people cherish special sentiments toward the Hungarian people. Our ancestors may have been neighbors long, long ago. That explains the many similarities we share. For instance, we both use the date format of year/month/day and put our last names before our first names. I think there is close affinity between our two peoples, something like a family bond, which grows stronger with the passage of time. Hungary has an influence that is way beyond its modest size of territory and population. With a national spirit of innovation, Hungary is known as a nation of inventors. It is home to many inventions and big names influential in world civilization. The Hungarian nation is talented, resilient and independent. I am confident that the Hungarian people, with their hard work and wisdom, will fully tap their strengths to build a more prosperous and beautiful country with a bigger and more active role in Europe and the world.
Q: How do you see the prospect of cooperation between Hungary and China?
A: Over the past 62 years since the establishment of diplomatic ties, China and Hungary have enjoyed good relations without major setbacks. Despite the profound changes in the world and our respective countries in the past 20 years, the friendship between our two countries has not diminished. Rather, thanks to the care and commitment of both sides, it has grown stronger, like the vintage wine that Hungary produces. In my view, the most important reason is that we have treated each other as equals with mutual respect. This shows that countries can move beyond their differences in ideologies and political systems and that such differences need not stand in the way of state-to-state relations. In my discussions with President Pal Schmitt and Prime Minister Viktor Orban, we all agreed that China and Hungary enjoy a good foundation for bilateral ties and promising future for cooperation, and that the two sides will work to expand trade and mutual investment. During this visit, I also discussed with Hungarian leaders ways to explore cooperation in finance, communication, aviation, railway, transportation, nuclear power, infrastructure and other areas, deepen people-to-people and cultural exchanges, and enhance mutual understanding and friendship in order to create an even better future for China-Hungary relations to the benefit of the two peoples.
The traditional friendship between China and Hungary is the common asset of the two peoples and should be deeply cherished. What we need to do in a changing world is to carry this friendship forward in keeping with the times, so that the edifice of our friendship will be more solid and magnificent, just like your parliament building. The Chinese leaders and government have all along viewed China-Hungary relations with a strategic and long-term perspective and seen in Hungary a good friend and good partner. I am sure that with our joint efforts, China-Hungary relations will continue to make big strides and become an example of China's relations with EU countries.
Q: China and the EU are two important forces in the world today. What do you expect from China-EU relations?
A: I think we should find new ideas and take our relationship to a higher level. I had an in-depth and productive exchange of views with High Representative Lady Ashton during the second round of China-EU High-Level Strategic Dialogue in Budapest. We agreed that, faced with important opportunities for development of China-EU relations, the two sides should work together to set a good example for international cooperation in the 21st century. China's 12th Five-Year Plan and the Europe 2020 Strategy provide a good platform for deepening our all-round cooperation. Both sides are determined to make good use of it to promote our common development and prosperity. China and Europe need to respect each other as equals and increase mutual trust so as to create better environment and conditions for greater development of our relations.
Q: Some European media have been talking about China's human rights recently. What is your view?
A: China has made historic achievements in advancing the cause of human rights. In particular, over the past 30-odd years of reform and opening-up, China has materialized its people's right to survival and development by developing its economy, a task that took European countries several hundred years to accomplish. China deserves acclaim from the world. China is a country with a long history and civilization and political wisdom, a country that is ready to learn and improve itself. We will follow our own path in keeping with our national conditions and remain firmly committed to the path of peaceful development. China is not Europe. And Europe is not China either. China and Europe should respect each other, interact harmoniously and seek common development and prosperity. We are both determined to focus on our cooperation so as to benefit the people of China and Europe. I believe this is what our people truly want to see.
Q: What is your views on the current situation in west Asia and north Africa?
A: West Asia and north Africa is a region with a long history, rich culture, abundant natural resources and important geo-strategic position. We follow closely the latest developments there and sincerely hope that this region can return to stability soon, its economy can have good growth and its people can have better lives. We hope this region can enjoy its due standing and dignity in the world. We always believe that the issues of the world should be resolved through dialogue and political means, rather than force. We need to trust that the people have the wisdom and capacity to solve their own problems and find development paths suited to their national conditions.
Q: China's development has riveted worldwide attention. Some think it is an opportunity while others take it as a challenge. What do you think?
A: China's development is no doubt an opportunity for the world. But the Chinese people tend to view opportunities and challenges as concurrent and inter-connected. A challenge, if handled well, can become an opportunity while an opportunity, if not seized, may turn into a challenge. As a big country with 1.3 billion people and fast economic growth in recent years, China is making increasing contribution to the world economy. It is worth noting, in particular, that China played an important part in driving the world economic growth during the international financial crisis. China is the largest or second largest export market for many countries. I heard that for every eight BMW sold in the world, one is sold in China, for every four Audi sold in the world, again, one in China. Earlier this year, China adopted the 12th Five-Year Plan for National Economic and Social Development (2011-2015). In the next five years, China's imports will reach US$8 trillion and its investment in environmental protection three trillion RMB yuan. China's development is a good opportunity for Hungary. Chinese companies are more active in overseas investment in recent years. And Hungary has attracted more Chinese investment than any other country in central and eastern Europe. China welcomes Hungarian companies to actively explore the Chinese market and will encourage Chinese companies to invest in Hungary. Our two governments have the responsibility to facilitate business cooperation for common growth. In a word, we hope that Hungary, Europe and the world can seize and capitalize on the opportunities brought by China's development.