While Western blocs of nations are entangled in their internal contentions with allies bickering with each other driven by surging right-wing nationalism and trade protectionism; on the other side of the globe, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) is holding its 18th summit in China’s Qingdao, with participation by its six founding members of China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, along with Pakistan and India taken on board as new members. Since its founding in 2001, the intergovernmental organization, with the main goal of strengthening mutual confidence and friendly relations between partners and neighbors, promoting effective cooperation in a range of fields, and making joint efforts to maintain peace, security, and stability in the region, has grown rapidly with multiple meeting mechanisms established to seek cooperation and consultation on major international issues. The Shanghai Spirit of mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality, consultation, respect for cultural diversity, and pursuit of common development, born together with the Shanghai Five mechanism, the precursor of the SCO, constitutes the undergirding value of the organization, is the cohesive force for member states to stick together, and also acts as an incentive for new members to join.
The Same Chord
Born out of the call of the times for peace and development, the Shanghai Spirit has gained great popularity. China has contributed its wisdom to SCO’s development. The new form of international relations featuring mutual respect, fairness, justice, win-win cooperation, and building a community with a share future for mankind proposed by President Xi, has received widespread support among member countries. These concepts are in harmony with the Shanghai Spirit.
Within the framework of the SCO, based on an in-depth and thorough analysis of the global political landscape and the common challenges, China proposed that member countries should build a closely-bonded community of a shared future to cope with challenges together and voice their opinions. China also proposed to deepen pragmatic cooperation among members following the trend of integrated regional development, and strengthen people-to-people exchanges, nurturing goodwill and friendliness. All these constitute the major content of building up the SCO into a community of a shared future.
The recently-released the Shanghai Cooperation Organization development report by the Institute of Russia, East Europe, and Central Asia Studies of Chinese Academy of Social Science states that SCO has become the testing ground for building a community with a shared future for mankind.
As for how to build the community of a shared future for SCO, the report proposes suggestions from three aspects: political, ideological barriers should be removed. Parties of member states should compare notes with each other on governance, learn from each other, and improve their governance capacity by sticking to the development path conforming to their domestic conditions, thus maintaining social stability and prosperity of the related countries. Economically, member states should support a multilateral trade system, oppose trade protectionism, reduce trade barriers, improve economic and trade cooperation, and promote mutual investment among member countries, thus building the regional community of shared interests and improving people’s livelihood. Culturally, member countries should respect cultural, religious, and racial differences, promote people-to-people exchanges, learn from each other, and seek harmony in diversity.
Bountiful Fruits Reaped
For 17 years, guided by the Shanghai Spirit, the SCO has carried out a series of cooperation campaigns against terrorism, separatism, and extremism with consensus and lots of agreements reached, which helped to effectively maintain regional peace and stability. From joint campaigns against national and foreign separatist forces, religious extremist forces, and violent terrorist forces, to joint actions and cooperation on law enforcement, information protection, drug trafficking and manufacturing investigation, halting money laundering, and cracking down on transnational crimes. SCO has continuously enriched its security cooperation and played an irreplaceable role in maintaining regional peace and stability. In recent years, promoting economic and trade cooperation has become a priority of the organization. Member states have improved their connectivity with regards to infrastructure, communications, and power and enhanced their cooperation on finance, energy, and agriculture.
In addition, people-to-people exchanges among member countries have been enhanced greatly. One of the most impressive results is the successful founding and operation of the league of universities of the SCO, with 82 universities from the six member countries having joined the league so far. Colorful festivals of art, music, and youth as well as activities pertaining to education have further strengthened the bonds between people.
An overview of the SCO’s 17 years of development gives an insight into the Shanghai Spirit which has ignited the intense desire of its members for cooperation and has attracted other countries to join in or engage with the organization.
While attending the 16th SCO summit in Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan, Xi said that the Shanghai spirit is the important ideological foundation and guiding principle for the organization’s successful development. He further pointed out that the Shanghai spirit has vitality and value beyond the just the current time and region, and provides a useful reference for all countries that are committed to collaboration and prosperity; it also gives a strong impetus to the international community's practices in building a new type of international relationship featuring cooperation and shared benefits.
SCO Secretary-General Rashid Alimov said that within the organization there was no hegemony or bullying but consultation and consensus. He lauded the SCO as a paradigm for countries with different political systems, cultures, and national strengths to seek common ground and address global issues together.
As multilateralism and economic globalization deepens, countries of the world have become even more connected. However, instabilities and uncertainties still loom on the horizon with incessant regional crises and conflicts. Against this global backdrop, the Shanghai Spirit has not only instilled motivation and confidence within member countries, but also inspired the whole world. The Shanghai Cooperation Organization has become an important part of the international governance framework.
By upholding the banner of the Shanghai Spirit, the success story continues and the spirit of cooperation continues to soar to new heights.