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Foreign Policy

Takeaways from the SCO Summit

Sep 27, 2022
  • Xu Tao

    Research Fellow, Development Research Center of the State Council, China

On Sept. 15 and 16, the 22nd Meeting of the Council of Heads of State of SCO Member States was held in the ancient city of Samarkand, Uzbekistan. The summit, held at a time of accelerated evolution of the world’s political, economic and security situation, will determine the future direction of the SCO and is a milestone event in the 26-year-old Shanghai process. 

Strengthen and assert multilateralism 

Since its establishment, the SCO has always advocated the concept of multilateralism — “non-alignment, non-confrontation and non-targeting of third parties — and has written these principles into its charter. In recent years, as economic globalization has entered a difficult phase, global governance has run into deficit. Unilateralism, protectionism and isolationism have prevailed, and the concept of multilateral cooperation and mutually beneficial development has been affected. Especially marked by the Russia-Ukraine conflict, the world has seen a trend of camp division and segmentation.

In his speech at the Samarkand Summit, President Xi Jinping said, “We should remain firm in safeguarding the UN-centered international system and the international order based on international law, practice the common values of humanity and reject zero-sum games and bloc politics.

“We should expand the SCO’s exchanges with other international and regional organizations such as the UN, to jointly uphold true multilateralism, improve global governance and ensure that the international order is more just and equitable.”

In the face of the newly emerging trend to replace cooperation with confrontation and justice with power, the SCO continues to adhere to the concept of mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality and consultation in the pursuit of international cooperation. It promotes the building of a community of security, development and health in the region to create a clear stream in today’s chaotic world and demonstrate the strong vitality of multilateralism. 

Strengthen regional security cooperation and maintain regional stability 

In the face of a turbulent world and a changing region, the SCO continues to give top priority to ensuring the common security of its member states. The summit continued to put forward new cooperation requirements in response to the changing regional situation. The summit declaration states that “member states expressed deep concern over the security threat posed by terrorism, separatism and extremism in all its forms and manifestations and strongly condemned terrorist acts around the world. …

“Member states, while reaffirming a strong commitment to fight terrorism, separatism and extremism, resolve to continue to take active measures to address the conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism, cut off terrorist financing channels, suppress terrorist recruitment and cross-border movement, counter extremism, the radicalization of youth and the spread of terrorist ideology and eliminate sleeper cells and places used as terrorist safe havens.”

It also noted the inadmissibility of interference in the internal affairs of states under the pretext of countering terrorism and extremism, as well as the inadmissibility of the use of terrorist, extremist and radical groups for selfish ends.

In addition, the declaration proposed stepping up joint efforts of the international community to counter attempts to draw young people into the activities of terrorists, separatist groups and extremists, paying particular attention to preventing the spread of religious intolerance, aggressive nationalism, ethnic and racial discrimination, xenophobia and ideas of fascism and chauvinism. The summit also discussed national programs for institutionalizing SCO security cooperation. 

Create a new phase for the Belt and Road Initiative 

Over the past three years, the economic development of the SCO region, including China, has been slow. It has even declined because of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and international trade wars. In January this year, President Xi stated in a speech at the virtual summit on the 30th anniversary of diplomatic relations between China and five Central Asian countries that it is necessary to “build a belt of cooperation for high-quality development.” The summit discussed revitalization and development plans, and a number of concrete projects were launched in the presence of the leaders of the member states.

In the Samarkand joint declaration, member states emphasized and reaffirmed their support for the Chinese leader’s One Belt, One Road initiative (OBOR) and said they “acknowledge the ongoing work to jointly implement the project, including efforts to link the construction of the Eurasian Economic Union and OBOR.”

The member states will “utilize the potential of the countries of the region, international organizations and multilateral associations to create a space in Eurasia for broad, open, mutually beneficial and equal interaction in accordance with international law and taking into account national interests.” It is certain that this summit will create a new stage of development for the Belt and Road Initiative. 

Expand the circle of developing countries against hegemony 

The summit in Samarkand completed the organizational process of Iran’s full membership and accepted the applications of other countries, such as Belarus, to become members of the SCO at different levels. This process was carried out in strict accordance with the provisions of the SCO charter, the regulations on the admission of new members adopted in 2010 and the procedures for granting SCO membership that were adopted in 2014.

It is also a normal stage of the SCO’s development as an inclusive and open regional cooperation organization. Contrary to what some countries’ media speculated, the process demonstrated the appeal and cohesive power of the Shanghai Spirit. In addition, the summit also adopted a resolution granting dialogue partner status to Bahrain, Maldives, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Myanmar. Also, memoranda were signed granting dialogue partner status to Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The increased interest of developing countries in South Asia and the Middle East in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization is conducive to the formation of a broad circle of friends against hegemonism.

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