Viktor Orban pulled out all the stops. The Hungarian prime minister even wore the same light blue tie as his Chinese counterpart, Prime Minister Li Keqiang. The fanfare was designed to signal their close relations (ties?) during a two-day summit in Budapest between China and 16 eastern and central European nations.
This week marked the sixth annual “16+1” summit, though some of the commitments got a bit more serious this year. Hungary and some of its neighbors, like Serbia, are getting promises of new infrastructure and are set to play a key role in China’s new “One Belt, One Road” initiative, a vast $900-billion infrastructure project stretching all the way from Asia to Europe.
Investment is hardly a bad thing, but the political ramifications are providing bigger headaches in other capitals. Berlin and Brussels fear that China’s economic prowess could loosen their own influence, driving a further wedge in an already-strained relationship between some western and eastern EU members. Even Washington, which has historically strong ties with eastern European nations, might look on with some concern.