Ambassador Réka Szemerkényi calls China a dictatorship

PBS NewsHour is one of the most widely watched news program in the US.  In the July 8 program the host, Nick Schifrin asked – among others – Hungary’s ex-Ambassador to the US, Réka Szemerkényi about foreign perception of the US during the coronavirus pandemic.

Here are Szemerkényi’s responses from the edited transcript.  We publish them without any further comment.

Nick Schifrin:

So, how is the U.S. viewed around the world during the pandemic?

For that, we get three views from three different regions.

Jorge Castaneda was Mexico’s foreign minister from 2000 to 2003. He’s the author of several books, including, most recently “America Through Foreign Eyes.” Reka Szemerkenyi was Hungary’s ambassador to the U.S. from 2015 to 2017. She’s now a non-resident senior fellow at the Center for European Policy Analysis, a think tank in Washington, D.C. And Maina Kiai was U.N. special rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association from 2011 to 2017. He’s a human rights and anti-corruption lawyer from Kenya.

Welcome, all, to the NewsHour.

Nick Schifrin:

Reka Szemerkenyi, let me come to you.

We heard two arguments about how this is the end of American exceptionalism, but there are Europeans who still believe the U.S. is indispensable and who support the Trump administration’s policies, even if perhaps not the rhetoric.

Réka Szemerkényi:

Yes, absolutely.

For a long time, you know, the questions that raised concern on the side of the Europeans were more the rhetoric more the tweets that were coming out of the blue and that were not helpful to strengthening the transatlantic relationship.

But the policies absolutely outweighed these messages. And the policies that were implemented so far have been very positive and strengthening this cohesion. Support for Ukraine, the support for stronger cooperation inside NATO, the emphasis on the 2 percent as a fair and equitable contribution to the common defense were all seen as strengthening the alliance.

Nick Schifrin:

Reka Szemerkenyi, the Trump administration points out this isn’t about only how it has responded internally in the United States, but what happened at the beginning in this pandemic and the fact that China silenced some doctors, as well as scientists in the early days.

Réka Szemerkényi:


I think the actions of China have revealed the real nature of their regime to the generation that has never seen authoritarianism or dictatorship.

There is a very strong need of leadership and cooperation on the two sides of the Atlantic. We actually have to see through the current immediate reactions and have to see that, strategically, it is far more important now than ever to think of the transatlantic relationship as a real priority for both sides of the Atlantic.

Nick Schifrin:

Reka Szemerkenyi, last word to you.

Do you believe that these challenges that the U.S. face, they can — the U.S. can overcome them, and continue to play the role that you believe the U.S. should play in the world?

Réka Szemerkényi:

If the United States is to be the leader of the free world, it has to be a completely new type of leadership that it has to exercise.

It’s a leadership that has to be based on cooperation. It’s a leadership that has to be based on engaging partners and having delicate messages about the — kind of positive messaging about the cooperation, the values of international cooperation

It can be a leader, but it has to be a new type of global leader, a new type that is based on respect and cooperation and engagement along common values in the long term.

You may watch the entire program here:


  1. Avatar Gabriel Farkas says:

    While the PBS Newshour has an average of 2.7 million viewers a night, ABC ‘s nightly news has 12 million viewers, NBC’s has 9.5 million, CBS’s 6.6 million and Fox’s Tucker Carlson cable program has 4.331 million viewers.

    Thus, calling the PBS Newshour “one of the most widely watched news program in the US.” is a slight exaggeration.

  2. Avatar Pierre Divenyi says:

    Either I am or she (Reka Szemerkenyi) is confused. She says she appreciates Trump’s policy and then she says that if the US wants to be a global leader it must change, it must show respect for and cooperation with the other countries. In other words, adopt policies different from Trump’s.

    So, what does she really think? Or should we be interested in what she thinks?

  3. Avatar András B. Göllner says:

    Don’t have the faintest idea what madame ambassador is taking about or why her meaningless ditherings are reproduced here. She has been very well treated as Viktor Orbán’s house frau. I’m sure she’d drop everything and run off to China to hob-nob with “Chee” at the drop of a penny if Orbán would ask her to. Rather than replaying her boring performance on PBS why not get her to come clean about her shady past serving Hungary’s kleptocrats? Rather than showing her as she is unpacking her groceries, why not ask, what is she and Viktor are hiding in their closets? I’m sure that troll who goes by the name Joe, could sniff it out for us ….

  4. Yes China is a dictatorship in every sense of the way. The fact that it silenced some doctors early on as it was trying to get a grip on things is not ideal. But neither is what happened in many other countries. For instance, people were told no need for a facemask, only because there was a shortage. Then of course we are surprised that some people are now skeptical when we are told we all have to wear one. The bottom line, China did what had to be done to get the outbreak under control. Not pretty, not ideal, there were lies, there was censorship of facts but they got it done. What about Western Europe and the US? It was a disaster in every which way we want to measure it. Containment largely failed innitially. In US it failed completely. We were never meant to do it, because we are not China, yet we expected similar results. Even if we are to assume the real numbers on deaths in China was 10x higher, it was much lower on a per capita basis than in most Western countries, aside from the Eastern part of the EU. Economically, China started recovering many months ago. It is forecast that it will not even see an economic contraction this year. The Western world on the other hand is devastated economically and there may be far more pain on the way.

    So yes, China is a dictatorship, but what of the Western World? Increasingly a failure! We are more concerned with “social justice” and “environmental justice” and of course imposing “multikulti” than we are with getting things done, remaining competitive, public safety and so on. And yes, there is increasingly a dictatorship here too. It is a decentralized ideological dictatorship, with those daring to dissent facing swift acts of persecution, mostly hitting people with job loss, as we have seen countless times in the last few weeks.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *