From September 14 to 16, the 22nd meeting of the Council of Heads of State of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) was held in Samarkand, the second largest city of Uzbekistan. The SCO Samarkand Summit marked the beginning of a new phase, and it was held against the changes, such as the covid-19 epidemic and the conflict between Russia and Uzbekistan. President Xi Jinping attended the 22nd meeting of the Council of Heads of State of the SCO, during which he delivered a speech entitled "Ride on the Trend of the Times and Enhance Solidarity and Cooperation to Embrace a Better Future". After summarizing SCO's development over the past two decades, Xi mentioned that these five points: mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality, consultation, respect for diversity of civilizations and pursuit of common development are fully embody the Shanghai Spirit.
In order to jointly address new threats and challenges facing the global and Eurasian regions, leaders of the SCO member states signed and released the Samarkand Declaration of the Council of Heads of State of the SCO. The Samarkand Declaration outlines the security challenges in the context of global changes, regional conflicts and crises, climate change and others. The Samarkand summit is a milestone both in the development of the SCO and building of a SCO community with shared future.
Yesterday: there is no excellence without great labor
The SCO is an intergovernmental organization founded in Shanghai on 15 June 2001. Since its inception, the SCO has mainly focused on regional security issues, its fight against regional terrorism, ethnic separatism and religious extremism. The SCO currently comprises eight Member States, four Observer States interested in acceding to full membership and six “Dialogue Partners”.
Since its establishment, the SCO has made the maintenance of peace and tranquility in the regions of its member states a permanent mission and a basic purpose of it. Over the past two decades, the SCO fights against the "three forces", in which transnational drug trafficking and illegal arms trafficking has been the focus. Counterterrorism has always been a constant theme of SCO's cooperation. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, terrorism in Central Asia posed a great threat to the security of southern Russia and the northwestern border of China. Under the framework of SCO, Russia and China, together with the Central Asian member states, held regular military exercises against terrorism, and greatly deterred the "three forces". Over the past two decades, the SCO has been strengthening its security mechanisms, building an unbreakable security barrier in the Eurasian region to safeguard the well-being of its member states.
Economy and security are the two driving forces of SCO's sustainable development. Regional economic cooperation has always been prominent on SCO's agenda. Over the past two decades, SCO member states have developed extensive and fruitful cooperation in the fields of trade, transport and agriculture. The regional economic cooperation of the SCO is making new milestone in terms of trade alone. According to relevant statistics, the total trade volume of SCO member states was only 672 billion dollars in 2001, and in 2019 it was as high as 112,5158 billion dollars; meanwhile, the trade volume between China and the member states increased by more than 20 times. In addition, foreign direct investment in SCO states is also growing, improving the living standards of their people. Along with China's investments in SCO member states, a series of large-scale projects are effectively benefiting the people of Central Asia. Since the introduction of the "Belt and Road" initiative, SCO has continued to integrate with it and become an important platform for promoting the construction of it. After two decades, the legal basis and institutional framework of SCO regional economic cooperation has been perfected, laying a solid foundation for the future construction of the organization's free trade zone and regional economic integration.
People-to-people exchanges are of great significance to eliminate differences between member states, since the SCO covers a wide area and a large population, with historical and cultural differences, mutual understanding is hard to promote. As one of its driving, people-to-people exchanges have achieved fruitful results in the past two decades. Since its establishment, the member states have fruitful cooperation in the fields of education, tourism, health care and so on. At present, more than 70 project institutions of member states are involved in SCO universities, which are playing an active role in promoting personnel training, academic exchanges and scientific cooperation. In addition, the Confucius Institutes opened by China have become important platform for students from member states to learn Chinese language and culture. Following the outbreak of Covid-19, SCO member states are actively involved in global public health governance and are working to build a "human health community" under the SCO framework. In addition, its member states are actively developing tourism industries based on the cultural of the ancient Silk Road to enhance mutual understanding of each other's history and culture.
Today: braving thorny paths and confronting stormy weather
The SCO Summit in Samarkand was held against the backdrop of the profound and complex changes in the international and regional situation. Since the 2014Ukraine-Russia crisis, relations between the United States, Europe and Russia have sharply deteriorated, causing serious impact on the relations between major powers and the international order. At the same time, the intensifying competition and confrontation between major powers has caused multilateralism to suffer a severe blow and the global governance system to gradually fail. The Russia-Ukraine conflict has made the challenges of SCO member states in Eurasia even more difficult and severe.
Under the influence of the COVID pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine conflict, the international energy and food crises continue to intensify, and the world economy appears more depressed, which also has negative impact on the development of SCO. In addition, the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan has made the security situation in Central Asia more severe, which has undoubtedly increased the security challenges and cooperation difficulties of SCO. All in all, from both global and regional perspectives, the surrounding is extremely complex and severe. The Samarkand summit should respond positively to the major agendas and build consensus to contribute to the development of the organization in the next decade.
Tomorrow: the engagement will be growing everyday
Having completed the second decade of its historical mission and achieved brilliant achievements, the SCO is now standing at a new starting point. Although facing with pressures and difficulties, SCO still has a broad prospect. Because the "Shanghai Spirit" namely mutual benefit, equality, consultation, and the notion “building a community with a share future of mankind” provides an inexhaustible momentum for SCO. The "Shanghai Spirit" is highly compatible with the "One Belt and One Road" initiative, which upholds the innovative development model of "discussing, building and sharing". The Shanghai Spirit not only reflects the original paradigm of China's participation in international cooperation, but also enables SCO to gain the understanding and support of more and more countries.
In regard to the matter of enlargement SCO membership, necessary steps will be completed for granting Iran her long-awaited full membership. Meanwhile, the membership of Belarus will beregistered, starting the procedure for joining as a full member, and memorandums will be signed to grant Qatar, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia dialogue-partner status. After discussions, a decision will be made onofferinga similar status to the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain, the Maldives, and Myanmar. The rapid growth of this international institution is a clear sign of the spirit of the age towards cooperation and away from blocconfrontations. The growing members will enhance SCO efforts in global and regional management.
The supply of regional public goods is also an important driving force for the sustainable development of SCO. As one of the initial and leading countries, China's contributions to the world's global governance - the "Belt and Road" initiative and the "Community of Human Destiny" concept are not only play an important role for the SCO, but also help promote the common development and prosperity of member states. In particular, the global security and global development initiatives proposed by President Xi Jinping at the summit are inspired for solving global problems, as well as a guide for the future development of the SCO. AsDeng Hao, Secretary General of the China SCO Research Center, said, the global security initiative and global development initiative proposed by President Xi Jinping are highly compatible with the SCO and provide a new guidance for the SCO, thus keeping the SCO's advancing steadily in the right direction.