Hungarian-Chinese School Educates Tomorrow’s Cultural Ambassadors
The Hungarian-Chinese Bilingual Elementary School marks growing ties between Central Europe and Asia
The Hungarian-Chinese Bilingual Elementary School (Magyar-Kínai Két Tanítási Nyelvu Általános Iskola) was set up in response to the growing number of Chinese working in Hungary, and the increasing popularity of Hungary amongst Chinese companies looking to invest in Europe. The school opened with just 86 pupils from across China and neighboring Asian states, but this year has 229 students enrolled, 90 of whom are Hungarian.
Viktoria Schaff, one of the teaching staff at the school, told reporters that “more and more Hungarian parents are sending their children here…Their parents see the huge opportunities opening up for them as China becomes more and more important.”
The level of interest that economically powerful China has in Eastern and Central Europe has grown significantly over the last few years. Chinese companies have bought increasing volumes of real-estate in the region, and have started to compete for public infrastructure contracts, especially in Poland and Ukraine. The contract for the Lodz-Warsaw highway last year was awarded to a Chinese company, the first time a non-European company has won a contract part-financed by the European Union.
At a press conference for the purchase, Howard Ding, Deputy General Manager of Wanhua, said “BorsodChem gives us a manufacturing base in Europe…It means better access to the European market and better means to serve our customers.”
Hungary has had a strong Chinese presence since 1988 when the then-communist government in Hungary instituted a visa-free travel scheme for Chinese nationals, lasting right through until 1992.
The bilingual school in Budapest is an indication of how keen central and eastern European states are to position themselves to be ready for and welcome an influx of Chinese expat workers and accompanying investments. The school is itself close to the Budapest Asia Center, a large retail development of 1.35 million square feet first opened in 2003 that specifically caters to Asian shoppers.
At the Shanghai Expo in September this year, Hungary held a gala evening entitled ‘The City and the Music’ and a two week long series of programs showcasing Hungarian culture and the opportunities in Budapest for the Chinese market. Zhu Zushou, Governmental Vice-Commissioner of the Shanghai Expo emphasized to reporters that Hungary was among the first countries to establish diplomatic relationship with China more than 60 years ago.
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