China charts course for SCO's role in global governance
By Rabi Sankar Bosu
Chinese President Xi Jinping's keynote speech to this year's SCO summit in Qingdao is already being held up as a panoramic blueprint for the SCO's growing role in global affairs from security to development. Ahead of the SCO summit, China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi suggested the Qingdao Summit will become "a new milestone in the development of the SCO." There is no exaggeration to say that the Qingdao Summit will go down as the first meeting of the "Eurasian Eight" countries that will usher in a new stage for the SCO's development.
Chinese President Xi Jinping chairs the 18th Meeting of the Council of Heads of Member States of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in Qingdao, east China's Shandong Province, June 10, 2018.[Photo: Xinhua]
Taking on the mantle of the revolving SCO presidency from Kazakhstan, this is the fourth time China has hosted the SCO Leaders' Summit since the bloc's formation in 2001. This year's summit was truly historic, being the first since the enlargement that brought two nuclear-armed rivals - India and Pakistan - into the prestigious SCO grouping last year, joining China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Xi Jinping chaired the two-day annual meeting, which was attended by 18 countries including leaders of SCO member states, observers and dialogue partners, as well as heads of international organizations.
President Xi Jinping's address to the closing of the sessions focused on issues such as security, politics, trade, economy, investment, culture and tourism. In it, he laid out realistic and comprehensive goals for global and regional challenges, including cross border terrorism, extremism, separatism, environmental threats and protectionism, to mention just a few.
Ever since its formation, the Shanghai Spirit, a code of conduct characterized by mutual trust and benefits, equality, respect for cultural diversity, and the pursuit of common development, remains the core principle of the group. In his speech, Xi Jinping described the Shanghai Spirit as the backbone of the SCO. "The Shanghai Spirit is our shared asset, and the SCO is our shared home," said the Chinese president. Thanks to the efforts of its members over the past years, the SCO has created a new model for regional cooperation and has made new contributions to peace and development in the region.
Commenting on Xi Jinping's speech, Dr. B.R. Deepak, a professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University in India, is being quoted: "Xi's emphasis on the "Shanghai Spirit" is very timely since protectionist and unilateral political approaches tend to disrupt the existing regional and international order and create conflicts among nations. The Shanghai Spirit could essentially be regarded as an antidote to these approaches."
With the entry of India and Pakistan, today's SCO membership stands at eight from the original "Shanghai Five." This growth will give the SCO a larger voice in the push for more regional security and stability. It will also hopefully provide an opportunity for the two South Asian rivals to resolve their bilateral differences through multilateral meetings through the SCO grouping.
"As the strength of the SCO expands, the people of the region and the international community are paying more and more attention to and are placing greater expectations on the organization and the SCO now shoulders increasingly greater responsibilities in maintaining regional security and stability and promoting development and prosperity," said Xi Jinping as part of his speech in Qingdao.
Addressing regional security, President Xi Jinping says the SCO has become an important force for upholding regional security, promoting common development and improving global governance. He also says the organization will promote counter-terrorism intelligence exchanges, strengthen legal foundations and capacity building, effectively combat terrorism, separatism, extremism, drug trafficking, transnational organized crime and cyber crime, and leverage the role of the SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group.
It is now much clearer that peace and stability in war-torn Afghanistan cannot be achieved only by the military actions of the United States and NATO. There has to be greater involvement from China and India in the rebuilding efforts in Afghanistan. It is encouraging to note that Xi Jinping's speech provided a framework for the organization's renewed engagement in Afghanistan. In this regard, India and Pakistan should collaborate with other SCO states, in particular China and Russia, in intelligence sharing, as well as help the others develop counter-terrorism strategies based on their long experience with it.
Facing the prospect of long-term trade challenges with the United States, President Xi Jinping delivered a robust defense of globalization, demonstrating China's commitment to opening up. Rejecting "selfish, shortsighted" trade policies, he has called for building an open global economy. "We reject selfish, shortsighted, closed, narrow policies, (we) uphold World Trade Organization rules, support a multilateral trade system, and building an open world economy," Xi said.
Given the importance of economic and social progress, as well as security cooperation, Xi Jinping has also promised China's economic commitment as well. In his speech in Qingdao, the Chinese President says China will offer the equivalent of 30 billion yuan ($4.7 billion) in loans under a framework of the Inter-Bank Consortium formed by SCO countries. To promote bonds between SCO member states, 3,000 people will be welcomed from other SCO countries to undergo human resources training in China over the next three years. He also notes China is willing to provide free weather data to all SCO members through its Fengyun-2 weather satellites.
From the end of the Astana summit last year to the event in Qingdao, China has been heavily engaged in cooperation with SCO states through the Belt and Road Initiative. On June 9, talks between Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the sidelines of the SCO summit added further vigour to the India-China relationship. It is hoped that India can use the SCO strengthen its economic relations with China, via the New Development Bank and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. Surely, the development of India-China relations is important to the strength of the SCO family. It's a useful tool to promote "inclusive globalization" in the face of growing unilateralism.
(Rabi Sankar Bosu, Secretary, New Horizon Radio Listeners' Club, based in West Bengal, India)