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Jun 5, 2021-2021


Ban on Chinese Campus



Hungarian public


Victor Orban, Hungarian PM


A nation’s money should be spent on its people and not on foreign projects.


Issues and Opposition: Victor Orban has been Hungary’s PM from 1998 to 2002 and then since 2010. Known for his nationalist rhetoric, Orban surprised Hungarians when he permitted the Chinese Fudan University to open its first European campus in Budapest. The project was scheduled to be over by 2024. Orban’s otherwise pointed anti-communist rhetorics did not prevent him from committing a staggering 1.5bn Euros for the project. This large amount was to be forwarded to Hungary as a loan by the Chinese government. This implied that Hungary was paying China for opening its university campus in Hungary. Moreover, the site selected for the campus was originally chosen for poor student housing. The other issue was that after the construction of the campus, it would be Hungary’s responsibility to bear the maintenance costs and pay salaries to the Chinese professors. Despite such involvement, the majority stake of the university was to remain with the Chinese government implying that all administrative decision-making fell on China and not Hungary. The information came to the public and Orban’s opposition through document leakage. Amicable foreign relations with China prompted Orban to strike this “deal” that benefitted China. However, Hungarians disliked what they interpreted as China’s colonial tendencies and schemes to take Hungary’s freedom away. Orban has consistently maintained good relations with China and has met with Chinese Premier Xi Jinping multiple times, the most recent one being in 2019. At this meeting, the leaders jointly announced to further extend China-Hungary’s long-standing bilateral diplomatic relations and strategic partnership of 2017 under China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). One of the collaborative projects that the leaders discussed was the Belgium-Belgrade railway system. China’s influence on the Central and Eastern European Countries (CEEC) has provided them with gainful economic opportunities although according to some critics (e.g. Brattberg et al. 2021) from think tanks such as Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, China has created complications for CEEC. These complications include giving the European Union a hard time in getting a consensus among its members on various critical matters. The protesters opposed Orban’s approval of the Fudan University campus in Budapest since the people feared that Orban has sold out to China and was trying to expand China’s commercial interests in Hungary. The opposition parties grabbed this opportunity to protest against Orban and made it a political issue probably because of the imminent election.
Dilemma Action: Thousands of protesters thronged the streets of Budapest in a peaceful rally with slogans and banners depicting messages such as “Hungarian money for Hungarian universities” and “We will not be a colony”. The rally was followed by Gergely Karacsony, the Mayor of Budapest, declaring that he was renaming several streets near the proposed campus site after the victims of China’s human rights abuse. To begin with, four street names were changed to Free Hong Kong Road, Dalai Lama Street, and Uyghur Martyrs’ Road.
Outcome: This dilemma action was successful probably because Orban understood that he had annoyed large sections of Hungarians, which might put him and his party in trouble during the election. Not wanting to risk his political career, Orban responded by offering a referendum on the Fudan University campus in Budapest. The referendum was to be held only after the election. This dilemma action was initiated after the documents on a proposed Chinese university campus in Budapest were leaked. The action, therefore, was not part of any larger campaign or movement.


Accountability / Corruption


Assemblies of protest or support



7 / 12

(CONC) Concessions were made

(EREP) Dilemma action got replicated by other movements

(MSYMP) Media coverage was sympathetic to the activists

(PS) Dilemma action built sympathy with the public

(PUN) Punishment favored the activists

(RF) Dilemma action reduced fear and/or apathy among the activists

(SA) Dilemma action appealed to a broad segment of the public


0 / 3


Project documentation

Dilemma Actions Coding Guidebook

Case study documentation


CC BY 4.0 Deed, Attribution 4.0 International


Graham-Harrison, Emma. 2021. “Opposition forces Orbán into U-turn over Chinese campus plan in Budapest,” The Guardian. Retrieved July 23, 2023. (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/jun/12/opposition-forces-orban-into-u-turn-over-chinese-campus-plan-in-budapest).

BBC News. 2021. “Budapest protest against China’s Fudan University campus,” Retrieved July 23, 2023. (https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-57372653).

Brattberg, Erik et.al. 2021. “China’s Influence in Southeastern, Central, and Eastern Europe: Vulnerabilities and Resilience in Four Countries,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Retrieved July 23, 2023. (https://carnegieendowment.org/2021/10/13/china-s-influence-in-southeastern-central-and-eastern-europe-vulnerabilities-and-resilience-in-four-countries-pub-85415).

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