When bidding farewell after their annual summit in Beijing in
early June, the leaders of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization
(SCO) had reason to feel proud of what they had achieved. By any
measure, the summit was a remarkable success. It will go down in
history as a milestone event for the organization, which groups
China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and
As the first meeting of SCO heads of state in the second decade
since the organization was established in 2001, the Beijing summit
offered the leaders a timely opportunity to ponder the future,
mindful of pressing challenges in the region and beyond. Global
recovery remains fragile given persistent structural problems in
Western economies, as evidenced by the worsening European sovereign
debt crisis. Political turmoil in West Asia and North Africa
threatens regional stability. As U.S.-led NATO forces are set to
pull out of Afghanistan by 2014, terrorism may spread from the
war-torn country to Central Asia. Against this backdrop, the SCO
cannot but work in concert more closely and effectively in the
years to come.
For the first time, the SCO adopted a comprehensive strategic
plan for its future development at the Beijing summit. The plan
identified "consolidating mutual trust, maintaining security,
promoting development, improving people's livelihoods and
strengthening exchanges" as priorities for future cooperation. SCO
leaders agreed to take further measures to combat the "three evil
forces" of terrorism, separatism and extremism. They also
incorporated the protection and evacuation of member states'
nationals living abroad into the SCO security cooperation agenda.
All these moves aim to make the SCO region, which covers three
fifths of the Eurasian continent, more peaceful and prosperous,
thus delivering benefits to the region and the world at large.
Over the past years, the SCO has evolved from a regional
security arrangement against the "three evil forces" to a
full-fledged international organization focusing on security, as
well as economic and cultural cooperation. It has also reached out
to other Asian nations for dialogue and collaboration. At the
Beijing summit, Afghanistan joined the ranks of Mongolia, Pakistan,
Iran and India as SCO observers. Turkey became one of the dialogue
partners of the organization, which also include Sri Lanka and
As the first international organization established on the
Chinese mainland and named after a Chinese city, the SCO means much
for China. It not only serves as a platform through which China
engages its Central Asian neighbors, but also exemplifies the
country's efforts to build a "harmonious world." Unlike NATO, a
military alliance for collective defense, the SCO stresses mutual
trust, mutual benefit, equal consultation, respect for cultural
diversity and the pursuit of common development—principles that
resonate with China's vision for world harmony.
As a new decade unfolds, hopes are high for the SCO to play a
greater role in promoting regional peace and development.