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SCO prospects and opportunities continue to expand

Author  :  Li Jinfeng     Source  :    Chinese Social Sciences Today     2019-07-01

From June 12 to 14, Chinese President Xi Jinping paid a state visit to the Kyrgyzstan Republic and attended the 19th Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Bishkek.

New achievements

Over the past 20 years, the SCO has stood at the forefront of world development with new ideas and new stances. Today, the Shanghai Spirit, featuring mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality, consultation, respect for diversity of civilizations and pursuit of common development, is of epoch-making significance in the history of international relations. The SCO’s important role and contributions are mainly reflected in the following four aspects.

First, it has become a recognized world model for new international relations and regional cooperation. Second, it has played an important role in maintaining the security of China’s neighbors and the stability of Central Asia. Third, its successful operation and its first expansion are important signs of strategic coordination rather than hedging between China and Russia in the Eurasian region. Fourth, it is an important force in promoting a more just and rational new regional and global political and economic order. The SCO’s theoretical innovation and practical exploration, marked by the Shanghai Spirit, have provided important experience, approaches, mechanisms and platforms for raising the Belt and Road (B&R) initiative to a high-quality stage.

New opportunities

Since the international financial crisis in 2008, the world economy has been undergoing profound adjustments, which has led to major changes unseen in a century. The SCO represents historic development opportunities, both externally and internally.

First, the 2018 Qingdao summit has injected new meaning into the Shanghai Spirit. During the SCO summit in Qingdao, President Xi proposed to “uphold innovative, coordinated, green, open and inclusive development,” “pursue common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security,” “promote open and inclusive cooperation for winwin outcomes,” “champion equality, mutual learning, dialogue and inclusiveness between cultures,” and “embrace extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits in global governance.”

Second, the transition of the B&R towards high-quality development has given a new impetus to SCO member states. The SCO, which represents the key regions of B&R cooperation, will usher in new opportunities for development. The B&R initiative, which dovetails with the development strategies of neighboring countries, will provide a rare historic opportunity for the economic development and transformation and upgrading of SCO member states. The implementation of a large number of connectivity projects has laid the foundation for the SCO’s facilitation of regional transport. Moreover, the SCO will provide an important platform for multilateral planning alignment consultation and even the technical, regulatory and standard alignment negotiations under the B&R. In addition, production capacity cooperation among the B&R countries will provide new opportunities for SCO member states to promote modernization, industrialization and urbanization and improve people’s livelihood. Financial cooperation among B&R countries will also promote the internationalization of the RMB.

Third, the huge potential of the region after the expansion is still being realized. The participation of India and Pakistan in 2017 has turned the SCO into the regional cooperation organization with the largest population and the largest land area in the world, providing the organization with huge geographic and cyberspace potential for its future development and creating huge consumer markets and vast investment space for connectivity. With the participation of India and Pakistan, the connectivity between Central Asia and South Asia will be enhanced, forming a larger geographic region and market for regional cooperation, which will support the expansion of infrastructure investment in the SCO region.

Fourth, regional cohesion has increased. Within the SCO, China-Russia strategic coordination has strengthened political mutual trust and effectively fought against unilateralism and protectionism. Relations between Uzbekistan and its central Asian neighbors have improved markedly. Central Asian countries have strengthened dialogue and coordination on border issues, water resource issues and other issues. Additionally, India has taken an active part in security and economic cooperation. China-India relations have improved. Relations between India and Pakistan have also eased.

Seeing that the SCO is faced with so many new opportunities, we should also acknowledge some of the challenges facing its development. Unilateralism and protectionism pose challenges to regional cooperation, making internal coordination after expansion more difficult. In addition, India and Pakistan have not fully integrated into the SCO family, and expansion may lead to new challenges and risks.

Future focus

In the political field, solidarity and mutual trust and support should be strengthened. We will continue to carry forward the Shanghai Spirit and strive to build a regional community of common destiny, providing an SCO plan for the construction of a community of shared future for mankind. In the economic field, we need to expand practical cooperation and strengthen weak links in development. In the field of culture, we need to strengthen exchange and mutual learning to foster a feeling of community among peoples.

 

Li Jinfeng is deputy director of the Institute of Russian, Eastern European and Central Asian Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

Editor: Yu Hui

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