China and the 17th SCO Summit

China Plus Published: 2017-06-09 09:40:14
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China and the 17th SCO Summit

By George N. Tzogopoulos 

Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan hosts the 17th Summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). The Organization has been active for more than two decades representing the geopolitically vital Eurasia region and constituting a permanent intergovernmental international body with its premises in Shanghai and Tashkent. Its precursor was established in 1994 and was originally named the Shanghai Five mechanism. China along with Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Kazakhstan initially sought to foster cooperation in Central Asia after the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union. SCO was officially inaugurated seven years later also welcoming Uzbekistan. 

This year’s Summit is highly important for four main reasons. First, the full membership of India and Pakistan is decided after two years of negotiations. The Organization will now represent approximately 40 percent of the world population and 25 percent of its GDP while it is successfully proceeding to its first significant enlargement. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will join the club and complement the efforts of the other six countries to boost common development, prosperity and integration. India and Pakistan do not share the same geopolitical interests but perhaps their joint participation at SCO might pave the way for a better understanding. 

Second, the ‘Belt and Road’ initiative is now defining developments in Eurasia. Chinese President Xi Jinping is going to the 17th SCO Summit only one month after his impressive Beijing international conference which has been attended by almost all leaders of the Organization.  Acknowledging the impact and significance of the Chinese project since 2013, SCO is prepared to align regional integration with this philosophy. The foundations had been laid two years ago during the Ufa Meeting but it now becomes more tangible. As China will succeed the rotating presidency of SCO and will hold the 2018 Summit more steps towards this direction are expected to be made which are expected to bring win-win benefits. The results of economic interconnectivity are evident. According to Chinese statistics for 2016, China’s trade with Russia amounted at $69,5 billion with Kazakhstan at $7,88 billion, with Uzbekistan at $3,62 billion and with Kyrgyzstan at $1,43 billion.

Third, the SCO is enhancing its efforts to promote stability by combatting terrorism. Recent terrorist attacks in Europe, the Middle East and Asia outline the urgency of the matter. All participants are reiterating their support to fight against the Islamic State often facing serious radicalization and extremism threats. The Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) of the Organization has already conducted some exercises. In 2015, for instance, member states identified incitement information published by the terrorist organization on websites and social networks in Xiamen. President Xi places particular emphasis on the elimination and prevention of terror activities and SCO can be certainly an additional platform for coordinated action. 

And fourth, the 17th Summit of SCO coincides with the Astana 2017 EXPO titled ‘Future Energy’. Leaders of the Organization will subsequently have the opportunity to discuss energy collaboration. Here, China can assume again a leading role as the  realization of the ‘Belt and Road’ initiative can guarantee smooth transportation of resources such as oil and gas between countries as well as the implementation of additional works and projects. More importantly, Xi can repeat to his counterparts and the world his commitment to protect the environment and support green energy in a period during which US President Donald Trump has shocked the international community by announcing his decision to withdraw from the Paris climate change agreement. 

Last but not least, the visit of the Chinese President to Astana should be also viewed irrespective of his participation in the SCO Summit. By embarking on a four-day journey to Kazakhstan he is boosting bilateral ties. Currently, Beijing and Astana are advancing and implementing 51 cooperation programs in energy, agriculture, transportation, communications, construction, manufacturing and infrastructure, involving an investment amount exceeding $26 billion. Both sides are keen on cooperating more. As a joint statement confirmed, China’s ‘Belt and Road’ initiative can complement with Kazakhstan’ ‘Nurly Zhol’ or ‘Bright Path’. 

All in all, President Xi Jinping will conclude his Kazakhstan visit investing in both bilateral and multilateral diplomacy. China’s international position is thus naturally strengthened while its ‘Belt and Road’ plan is gaining more ground. 

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Lin Shaowen A radio person, Mr. Lin Shaowen is strongly interested in international relations and Chinese politics. As China is quite often misunderstood in the rest of the world, he feels the need to better present the true picture of the country, the policies and meanings. So he talks a lot and is often seen debating. Then friends find a critical Lin Shaowen criticizing and criticized. George N. Tzogopoulos Dr George N Tzogopoulos is Senior Research Fellow at the Centre International de Formation Européenne (CIFE), Advisor on EU-China Relations as well as Lecturer at the European Institute of Nice and the Democritus University of Thrace. He is also Research Fellow at the Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy and coordinator of its Asian Studies Programme. George is the founder of chinaandgreece.com, an institutional partner of CRI Greek. His first book: US Foreign Policy in the European Media: Framing the Rise and Fall of Neoconservatism was published by IB TAURIS and his second one: The Greek Crisis in the Media: Stereotyping in the International Press by Ashgate. David Morris David Morris is the Pacific Islands Trade and Investment Commissioner in China, a former Australian diplomat and senior political adviser. Sara Hsu Sara Hsu is an associate professor from the State University of New York at New Paltz. She is a regular commentator on Chinese economy. Benjamin Cavender Benjamin Cavender is a Shanghai based consultant with more than 11 years of experience helping companies understand consumer behavior and develop go to market strategies for China. He is a frequent speaker on economic and consumer trends in China and is often featured on CNBC, Bloomberg, and Channel News Asia. Harvey Dzodin After a distinguished career in the US government and American media Dr. Harvey Dzodin is now a Beijing-based freelance columnist for several media outlets. While living in Beijing, he has published over 200 columns with an emphasis on arts, culture and the Belt & Road initiative. He is also a sought-after speaker and advisor in China and abroad. He currently serves as Nonresident Research Fellow of the think tank Center for China and Globalization and Senior Advisor of Tsinghua University National Image Research Center specializing in city branding. Dr. Dzodin was a political appointee of President Jimmy Carter and served as lawyer to a presidential commission. Upon the nomination of the White House and the US State Department he served at the United Nations Office in Vienna, Austria. He was Director and Vice President of the ABC Television in New York for more than two decades. Duncan Bartlett Duncan Bartlett is the Editor of Asian Affairs, a monthly news magazine. As well as writing regularly for China Plus he also contributes to Japanese newspapers including the Sankei and the Nikkei. He writes weekly blog called Japan Story. He has previously worked as a journalist for the BBC, the Economist and Independent Television News. Stephane Grand Stephane Grand is the principal of an international accounting and management consulting firm in Greater China. Stephane has advised hundreds of foreign investors over the last 25 years of his presence in China. He holds a Ph.D. in Chinese corporate law from La Sorbonne (Paris), a Masters degree from the Fletcher School (Boston), and an MBA from HEC (Paris). He is an active commentator of business in China.