SCO FAMILY: Leaders of SCO member states take a group photo on September 13 in Bishkek during the SCO Summit (HUANG JINGWEN)
Leaders of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) member states gathered in Bishkek in mid-September, declaring their shared mission to boost cooperation in economic and security cooperation in the region.
The SCO, which groups together China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, is an inter-governmental organization founded in Shanghai on June 15, 2001. It also includes Afghanistan, India, Iran, Mongolia and Pakistan as observers, and Belarus, Sri Lanka and Turkey as dialogue partners. The next SCO summit will be held in the Tajik capital of Dushanbe in 2014.
At the summit, SCO leaders approved a framework to implement the Treaty on Long-Term Good-Neighborliness, Friendship and Cooperation. The framework is essentially important for SCO's healthy development, for it will guide its members to promote mutual political trust and conduct in-depth pragmatic cooperation.
SCO leaders pledged to jointly cope with global challenges and ensure sustainable socioeconomic development in the region. They asserted that amid the rapid reshaping of the international arena, which has implications for world politics, the economy and security, maintaining solidarity is a top priority. Moreover, they promised to fight international terrorism, separatism, extremism, transnational organized crime and other illicit activities, calling for concerted efforts to improve the legal basis for cooperation in these areas.
Sun Zhuangzhi, an expert on Eurasian studies with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), pointed out that this year's summit was very important for China and the SCO, as this was the first SCO summit held since China's latest transition of power. During the summit, President Xi Jinping stated China's stance on regional and international issues, stressing China's active and practical attitude toward this bloc, said Sun.
Xi said SCO members should carry forward the Shanghai Spirit, which features mutual trust, mutual benefits, equality, consultation, respect for cultural diversity and pursuit of common development, and stressed that SCO countries should support each other on issues related to sovereignty, security, territorial integrity, political systems, social stability, and development models.
On practical cooperation, the Chinese president called on all members to carry forward the Silk Road Spirit. He suggested establishing an international road transportation system within the SCO so as to build transport corridors connecting the Baltic Sea and the Pacific Ocean, and linking Central Asia with the Indian Ocean and the Gulf. The SCO countries should also explore a trade and investment facilitation agreement, promote economic and financial cooperation, establish an SCO development bank and energy club, and put in place a cooperation mechanism for food security, he added.
"The summit helps increase Central Asian countries' confidence, while obtaining regional peace and economic growth," said Sun, adding that agreements and cooperation documents signed during the summit have promoted mutual trust among SCO members. Sun explained that the regional situation is very complicated at the moment. Central Asian countries now are at a key period of maintaining stability and realizing growth. Moreover, the world is still in the process of economic recovery. The Middle East is once again flaring up due to tensions in Syria and Egypt, he said, adding that the U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan is going to create uncertainties in the neighborhood.
Covering 60 percent of the Eurasian continent and owning 25 percent of the world population, the SCO has made enormous contributions in the region. Sun concluded that the SCO has established a system which not only promotes practical cooperation in trade among SCO members, but also plays an important role in protecting regional peace and stability through collective actions like anti-terror military drills. Besides, Sun added, the SCO has made great diplomatic achievements in participating in international affairs and solving regional issues.
Considering the big economic gaps between SCO members, Sun believed that the SCO will soon serve as a mechanism and platform to promote regional economic ties, but does not intend to be fashioned after the European Union. But it will play a comprehensive and significant role in different fields, such as security, economy and culture, to boost multilateral communication and cooperation.