Chinese companies have increasingly been targeting Central and Eastern European (CEE) countries in the past one and a half decades, while diplomatic relations are also on the rise. This development is quite a new phenomenon but not an unexpected one. On one hand, the transformation of the global economy and the restructuring of China’s economy are responsible for growing Chinese interest in the developed world, including the European Union. On the other hand, CEE countries have also become more open to Chinese business opportunities, especially after the global economic and financial crisis with the intention of decreasing their economic dependency on Western (European) markets. Here, China can benefit a lot from the EU’s core and peripheral type of division. For China, the region represents dynamic, largely developed, less saturated markets, new frontiers for export expansion, new entry points to Europe and cheap but qualified labor. This adds up to less political expectations, less economic complaints, less protectionist barriers and less national security concerns in the CEE region compared to the Western European neighbors. CEE countries' disappointment coming from the slower-than-expected catching-up processes to Western Europe also resulted in these countries’ turning towards the East.
Chinese economic presence is indeed substantial in Hungary in regional comparison. In the past one and a half decades Hungarian governments have increasingly perceived China as a country which could bring economic benefits through developing trade relations, growing inflows of investment and recently also through infrastructure projects.
The above-mentioned trends together with the 16+1 cooperation between 16 CEE countries and China have drawn the attention of Western diplomats, scholars and media to these intensifying efforts and their potential implications on the EU or even globally. Therefore, it is worth to examine China's growing economic presence in Hungary through China's trade, investments as well as infrastructure-related projects here, in order to show that - although Chinese economic influence is on the rise - in reality, it is far from being decisive yet. On the contrary, EU's position in these fields is almost unshakable.