BUDAPEST - China and Hungary will expand cooperation in several areas, including in the nuclear power industry, Hungarian Prime Minister Vitkor Orban announced in Budapest on May 9 after talks with visiting Chinese President Xi Jinping.

"China is one of the pillars of the new world order," Orban told a press conference in the Hungarian capital.

Xi arrived in the Hungarian capital late on May 8 after meeting with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic in Belgrade. His European tour started on May 5 in France where President Emmanuel Macron and EU leaders urged him to ease Chinese trade restrictions and to use his influence to press Russian President Vladimir Putin to end his invasion of Ukraine.

Orban said bilateral trade had quadrupled in the past 20 years, transforming relations between Beijing and Hungary into "a strategic partnership."

Orban said Chinese investment was so small in Hungary 20 years ago that a "magnifying glass" was needed to find it. Last year, however, three-quarters of all foreign investment in Hungary was by China, Orban said, adding it provided jobs for tens of thousands of Hungarians.

Orban also said Hungary would support China's peace plan for Ukraine.

Beijing put forward a 12-point paper more than a year ago that set out general principles for ending Russia's war on Ukraine but did not get into specifics. It received a lukewarm reception at the time in both Russia and Ukraine, while the United States said China was presenting itself as a peacemaker but reflecting Russia's "false narrative" and failing to condemn its full-scale invasion.

Speaking alongside Orban at the Budapest press conference, Xi said China will deepen economic, trade, investment, and financial cooperation with Hungary.

Xi, making his third and final stop on a European tour, promised to advance key construction projections, including a high-speed rail link between Budapest and Belgrade.

Xi called Hungary "the No. 1 target in the Central [and] Eastern European region for Chinese investment" in an article he wrote for the pro-government daily Magyar Nemzet.

Hungarian and Chinese officials were expected to sign 16 to 18 new cooperation agreements, one of which could be a large-scale infrastructure project within China's huge Belt and Road project, Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said earlier this week.

Xi's first trip to Europe in five years is seen as part of his drive to increase Beijing's influence on the continent's economic and political affairs.

Orban has forged close relations with China and Russia, while angering Brussels for refusing to join EU sanctions against Moscow or to allow, like other NATO countries, arms shipments to Ukraine.

In Belgrade, the two countries said a Sino-Serbian agreement signed by Xi and Vucic raises the level of their cooperation from strategic partnership to "building the community of Serbia and China with a common future in the new era."

After a series of bilateral meetings, Vucic called it "the highest form of cooperation between the two countries."

Xi said their countries will "jointly oppose hegemony and power politics" in the interest of "fundamental and long-term interests."

Like Moscow, Beijing has supported Belgrade diplomatically in its refusal to recognize former province Kosovo's independence, while Belgrade has supported China's claims to Taiwan. "Taiwan is China," Vucic said on May 8, citing the UN Charter.

Xi's visit was seemingly timed to coincide with the 25th anniversary of NATO's bombing of the former Chinese Embassy in Belgrade in 1999, a deadly incident that has united Beijing and Belgrade in their criticism of Western intervention in the Balkans and around the world.

China has invested some $6 billion in Serbia in the past decade, putting the money into copper mines and a steel mill as well as major highway and infrastructure projects, which have been criticized by some as nontransparent and overly risky deals between governments.