A GIOR investigation reveals new evidence of Chinese influence operations in Hungary, reflected in a recently announced seminar. The China-CEE Institute has announced a joint seminar to have been held on 8 September titled “Strengthening China-EU Cooperation in the Post-epidemic Era.” The Carnegie Endowment describes the China-CEE Institute as “the first Chinese-sponsored policy research institution in the region:
The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences established the China-CEE Institute in Budapest in 2017. The first Chinese-sponsored policy research institution in the region, its aim is to establish linkages with academic institutions across Central and Eastern Europe. It has a broad research mandate, covering political, social, technology, economic, and governance issues across the whole region, not just in Hungary. Many of its reports are authored by the same small group of European scholars, with Chinese managers and editors overseeing and financing their work.
According to the event announcement, the partner for the seminar was to be the Antall József Knowledge Centre, a Hungarian think tank. A Hungarian website specializing in corruption in Hungary reports on the ties between the Antall József Knowledge Centre and the government of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. According to the direkt36 report:
It took a while for the younger son of the late Hungarian prime minister József Antall, to find a stable and well-paying job. Born in 1964, Péter Antall worked as a press photographer during years of regime change three decades ago and obtained a university degree only at the age of 40. He was unemployed for years, then got a job through his father’s party, the Hungarian Democratic Forum (MDF), first at the secretariat of a minister, then at the MDF party foundation. During the last decade, however, his life has turned around. He has been running a think tank called Antall József Knowledge Centre (AJKC), a foundation supported financially by the government of Viktor Orbán. So far, AJKC has been awarded more than 4 bn HUF (almost 12 mn EUR) of taxpayers’ money. Direkt36 obtained hundreds of internal documents on the spending of the Knowledge Center, and we conducted interviews with ten sources familiar with the operation of the organization. Our key findings include:
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In August 2022, the Global Influence Operations Report (GIOR) reported on a study on Chinese influence in Hungary, which said that China plays a “system-supporting and system-legitimizing role.” The study argued that Chinese “corrosive capital” provides lucrative business opportunities for Hungarian prime minister Victor Orbán’s clientelist networks and helps him portray Hungary as a key global player. Also, in August, we reported on a new survey that found Hungarian voters from the ruling Fidesz party share overwhelmingly positive views of China while opposition voters express pessimism and concern.
In February, we published a GIOR report on the new and developing alliance between US conservatives and European nationalists, a potential means for Russia to exert covert influence in Europe and the US, using Hungary as a platform.