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An unexpected reencounter warms Xi’s visit to Hungary

Xi Jinping

What deeply impressed Chinese President Xi Jinping during his state visit to Hungary, he said, was a Hungarian girl who presented flowers to him when he landed in Budapest.

On Wednesday evening, Olah Tamara in a white suit jacket, among a few other Hungarian students, stood beside the red carpet with a bouquet in hand at Budapest Airport.

Her smooth, shoulder-length hair was streaming in the wind, and her bright eyes shining with anticipation in the darkness like stars.

After being told that she was the same girl who presented flowers to Xi 15 years ago, the president recollected that encounter. « You’ve grown up. You were only this tall back then, » he said, making a gesture with his hand.

In 2009, on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between China and Hungary, Xi, then Chinese vice president, paid an official visit to Hungary.

In that trip, he held talks with Hungary’s president, prime minister and foreign minister, and visited the Hungarian-Chinese bilingual school.

« She was only six years old back then, » Xi recalled during a meeting with Hungarian President Tamas Sulyok the following day. « I was moved. From a little girl to a beautiful young lady, doesn’t it symbolize the growth of friendship between China and Hungary? »

When interviewed by Chinese media CGTN, the grown-up girl warmly welcomed Xi’s visit in fluent Chinese, and expressed her joy of seeing the Chinese leader again.

She learned Chinese at the Hungarian-Chinese bilingual school, a 12-year all-through public school that teaches in both Chinese and Hungarian. Now a college student, she has a Chinese name « Tong Man. »

WELCOME HOME

When Xi arrived here Wednesday, an old friend also greeted him at the airport: Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

« Welcome home! » Orban said, shaking hands with Xi. « We welcome you with warm friendship. »

« I met Mr. Prime Minister in 2009, so we are old friends, » Xi said during a meeting with Orban on Thursday.

« Fifteen years later, when I revisited Hungary, I have two deep feelings. One is the thriving momentum of Hungary’s economic and social development, and the other is the hospitality and friendship of the Hungarian people. They make me feel at home, » Xi said.

Orban, for his part, said he still remembers Xi’s visit to Hungary 15 years ago, and he is glad that both countries and Hungary-China relations have made great progress in the past 15 years.

« I have full confidence in the future of Hungary-China relations, » he said.

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