SCO: A New Global Solution to International Relations
The young and energetic Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) has grown into the world’s largest comprehensive regional organization for cooperation after the admission of India and Pakistan. The SCO has abandoned patterns of alliance, disagreements over ideology and frequent confrontation in favor of dedication to solving urgent regional and international issues. The SCO’s past work has laid a solid foundation for effective and development-oriented cooperation among member countries.
The Shanghai Spirit written in the SCO Charter demonstrates its members’ determination to tackle challenges together and their will to develop a new type of international relations. Considered the soul of the SCO, the Shanghai Spirit values mutual trust and equality, respect for other countries’ reality and mutual beneficial cooperation. According to the SCO Charter and the Treaty of Long-Term Good-Neighborliness, Friendship and Cooperation between the Member States of the SCO, its member countries will seek consensus only on equal footing and with broad deliberation, a principle fueling extensive cooperation.
Expanding Fields for Cooperation
War has been frequent throughout history on the Eurasian supercontinent. So when SCO member states in the region consciously and responsibly implement cooperative programs in key fields of international politics, economics and culture, the value of the SCO and its prospects for future development become clear.
SCO members, observers and dialogue partners together hold rich energy, forest and fresh water resources, with three countries―Russia, Iran and China―ranking in the top ten of the world in terms of resource reserves. The combined GDP of its full members accounts for 21 percent of the world’s total and their industries have great potential. In recent years, SCO member countries have paid greater attention to high-tech, innovative production and the development of the digital economy in realms like metallurgy, machinery, energy and transportation. The countries’ outputs of products such as grain, maize, sunflower seeds, potatoes, soybeans, tea and cotton also top the world.
SCO member countries have acted as one to solve global economic problems, greatly promoting their own growth. For example, the SCO supports constantly improving the international trade system to make it more open and fair and forcefully opposes any form of trade protectionism. In recent years, the SCO has taken active measures in economics to enable smoother flow of commodities, capital, services and technology within the organization as well as better alignment of different economic initiatives from member countries.
SCO member countries have adopted their own effective foreign policies and played an active role in large-scale international organizations, especially the United Nations and its agencies like the Office on Drugs and Crime and the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP). The SCO has also carried out direct or indirect collaboration with organizations and mechanisms like the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the Commonwealth of the Independent States, Collective Security Treaty Organization, the Eurasian Economic Community, BRICS, the Organization of the Islamic Conference, and the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia, which has helped the SCO develop external relations and foster more opportunities to promote cooperation among international organizations and high-level exchange between countries, maintain peace and security, and enhance sustainable development.
Maintaining Peace and Security
Covering the most important geopolitical region in the world, the SCO faces almost every kind of threat and challenge including terrorism, drug trafficking, organized cybercrime and money laundering.
SCO member countries and its Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) have jointly taken active measures to fight such crime forcefully, contributing greatly to the fight against terrorism, separatism and extremism worldwide. The experience that the SCO gained can be adopted by other international or regional groups.
Deepening globalization has motivated regions and nations to pay more attention to national and regional distinctiveness. SCO members have also joined the trend. They are exploring channels for cultural exchange at different levels in hope of demystifying the spiritual, material and cultural worlds of their partners while maintaining their own civilization, culture and national characteristics.
Today it is more urgent than ever to stop the spread of terrorism and extremism and fight against behaviors that incite terrorism. This is an urgent mission for the SCO. Against this backdrop, SCO member countries are taking bolder action to combat extremism, ethnic prejudice and xenophobia. And their experiences are universally meaningful.
Considerd the birth place of almost every major world civilization, religion and culture, the SCO region is of strategic importance for maintaining the peace and security of Eurasia and even the world. The SCO’s vast territory and great potential determine its status in global economics, politics and culture, and the group’s stable growth will exert lasting influence on major sectors of global development.
In the future, by continuing to adhere to the principles of peace, common development and equal cooperation, the SCO will strengthen dialogue and collaboration with international organizations and contribute more to peace, safety and sustainable development of the region and even the world.
The SCO remains open to all nations and international organizations, as evidenced by its expansion process. The organization will accept new members who respect its objectives and principles and comply with the provisions of relevant international treaties and instruments, which has been written in the SCO Charter, demonstrating the openness of the organization.
At the Astana summit in June 2017, heads of member states of the SCO determined to accept India and Pakistan as full members after they had served as observers for 12 years. A week later, the national flags of the two South Asian countries rose at SCO headquarters in Beijing. Since then, eight countries in Eurasia have been members of the group, making the SCO the largest cross-region coalition—a natural result of the world’s dramatic changes in geopolitics at the turn of the century.
In the present global context, the will to pursue independence, progress and development unites members of the SCO. Two permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, Russia and China, actively embed global strategies into their own foreign policies, a practice which has taken the SCO to the forefront of international relations.
Among the countries officially identified as having nuclear weapons, four are SCO members: Russia, China, India and Pakistan. The five Central Asian countries including Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan are contracting parties of the Central Asian Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone (CANWFZ) treaty. And Russia, China and India have launched long-term space programs.
So, against the backdrop of an increasingly turbulent world, the eight countries in greater Eurasia, a new “G8,” will play an important role in assessing, addressing and determining global issues.
This year’s SCO summit will be held in June in China’s Qingdao City. It is expected that under the framework of the “eight member countries of the SCO,” they will identify new cooperative fields and strengthen determination to maintain peace and security and promote common development in concert on the broad platform of the SCO.
The SCO Development Strategy until 2025 targets solving real problems faced by its member countries. These issues, threats and challenges cut across borders and demand collective wisdom. The admission of India and Pakistan not only increases the strength of the organization but also creates new possibilities for realizing its aims. With its increasing expansion and further cooperation with its observer countries and dialogue partners, the potential for the SCO will definitely grow. Obviously, the new group of eight countries will help address current challenges and threats more efficiently and take advantage of current opportunities to deal with social and economic problems. In the SCO, the voices of all countries, big or small, rich or poor, are heard equally, an advantage of the group.
In this fast-changing world, regional organizations are playing a more important role in solving real problems. A new pattern of cooperation, the SCO is using practical action to raise its status as a prestigious multilateral coalition that enhances the peace and stability of the region, solves new threats and challenges, strengthens trade and cultural cooperation and taps into the potential of good-neighborly and friendly relations among peoples of member countries.
The author is SCO Secretary-General and holds a Ph.D. degree in politics.