Qingdao summit offers hopes for peace in Asia
By Duncan Bartlett
Chinese diplomats are hoping that the upcoming high-level summit in Qingdao will help to ease tensions between two of Asia's most unfriendly neighbors, India and Pakistan. There have been frequent clashes between the two nations since the partition of the Indian subcontinent 70 years ago.
India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Pakistan's President Mamnoon Hussain will attend the multilateral Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Qingdao on June 9 and 10. It will be the first SCO summit since India and Pakistan joined the group in 2017. In pre-summit talks, the two countries agreed to observe a ceasefire along their disputed border.
Journalists do preparation work at the Media Center of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Qingdao Summit in Qingdao, east China's Shandong Province, June 6, 2018. The media center of the summit will open to journalists from home and abroad from June 6 to 11.[Photo：Xinhua]
President Xi plays host
The SCO was established in Shanghai in 2001 with China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan as its founding members. President Xi Jinping will preside over the Qingdao summit that will be attended by these founding members, along with the leaders of the two new member states, India and Pakistan. The visit by India's Prime Minister Modi comes shortly after he met President Xi for two days of talks in Wuhan. Russian President Vladimir Putin will also attend the summit as part of a state visit to China this week.
The initial basis of the SCO was security cooperation. "The 'three evil forces' of extremism, terrorism, and separatism still pose a huge threat to Central Asia. The SCO has targeted the most threatening elements to the region from the very beginning. It was one of the first international organizations to set anti-terrorism as one of its main tasks," said Sun Zhuangzhi, the director of the Institute of Russian, Eastern European, and Central Asian Studies.
As well as pushing for improved security, the organizers say the summit will uphold the "Shanghai Spirit", which is seen as a way to create "mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality, mutual consultations, respect for cultural diversity, and pursuit of common development." China also regards the SCO summit as an opportunity to deepen economic ties with its neighbors.
Economic development is an important issue for the host city of Qingdao, in east China's Shandong Province. The city already trades extensively with countries in East and Central Asia. One local official described the event as a "once-in-a-lifetime golden opportunity" for the development of the region. "Qingdao has become an important sea gate of SCO countries to the Asia-Pacific market. Following the summit, we will take advantage of hosting the event and uphold the Shanghai Spirit to deeply integrate ourselves in the Belt and Road Initiative and open wider, so as to elevate our trade and economic relations with the SCO member states to a new level," said the official.
Despite its recent rapid development, Qingdao is still regarded as one of China's most attractive coastal cities, and it retains many of the historic European-style buildings from the 19th century.
(Duncan Bartlett is the Editor of Asian Affairs magazine and a former presenter of World Business Report on the BBC World Service.)