CZECH PARLIAMENTARY DISCOURSE ANALYSIS

HUNGARIAN PARLIAMENTARY DISCOURSE ANALYSIS

When it comes to Hungarian parliamentary discourse, it is remarkable that almost every party has made some comment on China since the early 1990s, and the attitude of parties and their politicians has changed dramatically. Hungary has a unicameral Parliament and China itself is not a widely and frequently discussed topic. Our research identified 335 occasions when China was mentioned in a significant way in the debate, out of which 184 were highly significant, while in another 151 cases China was merely mentioned as an example or listed among other countries. Besides these 335 occasions, a few hundred other occurrences without significance were excluded from the research.

The number of utterances shows a somewhat strange volatility, as it was quite low during the first term (1990-1994), while it doubled in the second term (1994-1998) just to fall back to its original level in the third term (1998-2002) and to start a gradual increase later on. Numbers tripled between the fourth and the seventh term.

You can download the policy paper summarizing the research results here (pdf).

Polarity-of-debates-on-China-at-the-Chamber-of-Deputies-of-the-Parliament-of-Hungary-in-election-cycles_A4_8-grafu

JPG     PDF

When it comes to the polarity of the debate on China, it is remarkable how negative Members pf the Parliament (MPs) have been on the matter. Negative utterances have always outnumbered positive ones by a wide margin, though with fluctuations. The share of negative sentiments grew gradually between 1990 and 2010, while it started to decrease from 2010 to reach its lowest point in 2018. The sources of negative comments were almost exclusively right wing or liberal parties between 1990 and 2010.

Hungarian Political Parties Sentiment on China as Expressed in the Parliament of Hungary-cumulative data for 1990-2018-01

JPG     PDF

Members of FIDESZ made by far the most anti-Chinese comments in Parliament during the first five terms. Their attitude, however, dramatically changed following the landslide victory of the party in 2010. They almost totally stopped criticizing China as 33 out of their 35 negative comments were made before 2010. The Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP, a successor of the Hungarian Socialist Workers’ Party) has traditionally been the most neutral on China since 1990. As a leftist party, MSZP cannot allow itself either to criticize China or to admire it too much being a formerly communist party itself. Two new parties gained seats in the Parliament following the general elections in 2010; both turned out to be highly critical of China. Jobbik, a radical far-right movement, has had the second most negative attitude on China since 2010, while LMP, a liberal-green movement, came third. The main difference between the approach of the two highly different parties is that while Jobbik focuses on Hungarian national interests in its critical remarks on China (Chinese immigration, fake products etc.), LMP has been vocal about the status of human rights in China, Tibet or about the Falun Gong. In this regard, LMP behaves similarly to SZDSZ (Alliance of Free Democrats). In sum, the right wing and liberal parties of the Hungarian Parliament have been mostly critical to PRC, the Hungarian Socialist Party has been mostly neutral, while FIDESZ has totally changed its attitude, as it turned itself from a China basher into a mostly neutral, occasionally even China-favorable political entity. However, none of the Hungarian parties can be described as consistently pro-China.

Representation-of-topics-mentioned-in-connection-to-China-at-the-Parliament-of-Hungary-1990-2018

JPG     PDF

Regarding the main topics discussed on China, our research shows major changes over the last three decades. Topics like human rights or Tibet had their peak time between 1990 and 1998 with almost half of the total number of utterances. When it comes to the topic of ‘economic diplomacy’ the trend goes the other way around, as 52 per cent of the utterances occurred after 2010. The trend is even more obvious if we analyze the occurrence of ‘Chinese investment in Hungary’ as a topic, as 82 per cent of utterances can be found between 2010 and 2018. It is noteworthy that these results are in line with the results of the previous media research done by ChinfluenCE , where the researchers found that topics such as values or human rights were outnumbered by media coverage of economic and business cooperation by a very wide margin. Czech results  show a different picture, as value based issues have always been an important topic in the national assembly in Prague.

Sentiment of MP’s notions on China at the Chamber of Deputies

JPG     PDF

Based on their speeches, none of the Hungarian MPs could be labelled as ‘a friend of China’. The most adamant, value-based and consistent critic of China was András Schiffer of the liberal-green LMP, as his speeches about China always touched upon human rights, Tibet or the Falun Gong movement. Others, like László Medgyasszay (KDNP), Zoltán Magyar (Jobbik) or Péter Karsai (MDF) criticized Chinese products (e.g. fake honey or milk products) but did not target the PRC state itself. Előd Novák of Jobbik extensively criticized the internet censorship of China, but he predominantly used it as a comparison of the intentions of the Hungarian government. Zoltán Balog (FIDESZ) was a fierce China basher in 2008-2009, criticized the human rights records of Beijing, attended a protest for Tibet in front of the Chinese Embassy in Budapest and called for EU level action against China. Meanwhile, he was significantly more balanced in his speeches in the Parliament, compared to his other public appearances. His critical attitude totally disappeared following the victory of FIDESZ.

You can download the policy paper summarizing the research results here (pdf).