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Viktor Orban, Xi Jinping And A Simple Question For The West

The basic precepts of democracy, recently on the line in Washington, have long been discarded by Europe Union member country Hungary. But is anyone pure on such questions these days?

Viktor Orban (left) inspecting medical supplies from China aboard a plane in Budapest
Viktor Orban (left) inspecting medical supplies from China aboard a plane in Budapest
Mattia Feltri

ROME — As the world watches Joe Biden's first days in the White House, Viktor Orbán is going strong in Hungary. You may remember he forced the liberal Central European University, founded by his favorite super-villain, George Soros, to leave Budapest between 2017 and 2018, in his quest to create an "illiberal democracy." Now Orbán has recently welcomed a new university to its capital: the Chinese University of Fudan.

It's a prestigious university, as international rankings attest. It will finally have a seat in Europe: a beautiful campus that is expected to house some 6,000 students in economics, international relations, medicine — all trained according to academic criteria that exclude freedom of thought, expunged from the statute and replaced with loyalty to the Chinese Communist Party led by Xi Jinping. Orbán may be a right-wing populist, but when given the chance, he sure knows how to open borders. Orbán had also borrowed money from Beijing to renovate the Budapest-Belgrade railway line.

The real irony is that the West is confused.

Now, he is negotiating the purchase of a million doses of the vaccine produced by the state-owned giant Sinopharm, too — because, apparently, Europe is not fast enough. The European Medicines Agency has not approved the Chinese vaccine, but these are trivial details: Orbán told the Hungarian drug agency to speed up with it, and to hell with everyone.

No, it's not just a matter of money: It is that delightful dictatorial approach to life of the Chinese that fascinates him. In fact, Orbán suspended the labor code and canceled collective agreements in his country. Every worker will now be required to observe the hours that the company assigns him or her — without discussion, without going through the fuss of involving a union.

But the real irony of it all is that the West seems confused. Take Italy, for example. Our center-left government led by Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has very solid ties with China, while our right-wing opposition has excellent relations with Orbán. They're always arguing, but who knew they actually have so much in common.

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Society

Colombia Celebrates Its Beloved Drug For The Ages, Coffee

This essential morning drink for millions worldwide was once considered an addictive menace, earning itself a ban on pain of death in the Islamic world.

Colombia's star product: coffee beans.

Julián López de Mesa Samudio

-Essay-

BOGOTÁ — October 1st is International Coffee Day. Recently it seems as if every day of the calendar year commemorates something — but for Colombia, coffee is indeed special.

For almost a century now we have largely tied our national destiny, culture and image abroad to this drink. Indeed it isn't just Colombia's star product, it became through the course of the 20th century the world's favorite beverage — and the most commonly used drug to boost work output.

Precisely for its stimulating qualities — and for being a mild drug — coffee was not always celebrated, and its history is peppered with the kinds of bans, restrictions and penalties imposed on the 'evil' drugs of today.

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