The Hungarian government has been following a pro-China policy since 2010, and it has disrupted European unity vis-á-vis China in many instances according to international criticism
. The pandemic has not led to any changes in its position on China, as the Hungarian government has expressed its gratitude for Chinese help and support on various occasions.
Budapest was among the first to send aid to Beijing and local governments have also sent medical equipment to China. Of course, ever since the virus started to spread in Europe Hungary has been importing medical equipment from China. The first airplane landed in Budapest on March 23 to be followed by another hundred flights between Budapest and various Chinese cities in recent months to deliver over a hundred million masks and other equipment. Over 99 percent of the cargo was purchased by the Hungarian government; while there have been some smaller donations by different Chinese actors as well.
In line with previous findings
, the Chinese side has not engaged in a major public diplomacy campaign in Hungary. Duan Jielong, the Chinese ambassador published an op-ed in a Hungarian daily (considered by most to be a government mouthpiece) and given some interviews to online news websites and radio stations. In his public appearances he thanked Hungary for its help and called for solidarity in fighting the pandemic and generally repeated official Chinese talking points. As to the potential impact of such publications it is telling that two comments, seven shares and 22 reactions can be found at his op-ed on the Facebook site of the daily the op-ed was published in. His other interview has gained 29 reactions, 11 comments and two shares. Not an impressive achievement on the Facebook pages of two major media outlets with 15,000 and 56,000 followers respectively.
As in most other European countries the Chinese Embassy in Hungary was a latecomer to joining Facebook and Twitter, only doing so in October 2019. The two accounts were opened at almost exactly the same time on 23rd
October. Having a mere 3.4 per cent of social media accounts Twitter has the lowest market share in Hungary among all the four Visegrad countries. Still, the Chinese Embassy has been very active since the opening of their account, as their feed features over 650 tweets, which is almost three tweets a day. The account was followed by 2,137 followers as of late May, but after closer scrutiny it turns out that 98 per cent of these persons are not Hungarians. There is a suspiciously high share of followers from the Middle East, South Asia and Africa, while I was able to recognise no more than 40 Hungarians among them. The average number of likes of each of their tweets is below three, while 54 per cent of the tweets have received zero likes and 45 per cent zero retweets. As a sign of the excellent language competency of the Embassy almost every single tweet features a short description in Hungarian.