The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Qingdao Summit was the first top leaders' meeting since the expansion of the organization's membership and a new starting point for the group of countries. At a time when the world is undergoing its most dramatic adjustment in a century, full of uncertainty and instability, an SCO solution for peace and development was clearly laid out by Chinese President Xi Jinping in his remarks at the summit and in the Qingdao Declaration released by the organization.
Although the world today faces many challenges, the trends of peace and cooperation are irreversible. The global scenario is undergoing unprecedented changes, with new tests such as trade protectionism and unilateralism emerging, regional conflicts intensifying and the threat of terrorism persevering. But as Xi noted in his speech, the force of peace will prevail. While hegemony and power politics persist, democracy in international relations has nonetheless become the unstoppable trend of the times, and in spite of global challenges, security and stability are what people now long for. Backlash against globalization continues, but cooperation for mutual benefit is the mainstream pursuit of the world's nations, and although rhetoric on the clash of civilizations can be heard occasionally, it is the diversity of civilizations that sustains human progress.
Chinese President Xi Jinping addresses a banquet held for guests attending the 18th Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Qingdao, east China's Shandong Province, June 9, 2018 (Xinhua/Xie Huanchi)
The SCO, as an influential participant in international affairs, makes important contributions to the world. Xi said at the SCO Qingdao Summit that the Shanghai Spirit, transcending outdated concepts such as the clash of civilizations, Cold War mentality and zero-sum games, has opened a new page in the history of international relations. The Shanghai Spirit is a creative vision initiated and enacted by the SCO that champions reciprocal trust, mutual benefit, equality, consultation, respect for the diversity of civilizations and pursuit of common development. The constructive partnership between SCO member states is a major breakthrough in the theories and practices of international relations, creating a new model for regional cooperation. Over the past 17 years, the concept of an SCO family has taken root in its member states. This family has not only brought enormous benefits for its members, but also acted as a model institution for the region and the world.
The five-pronged proposal presented by Xi is an answer to new challenges. Xi said that although the world today faces risks and challenges, we are capable of resolving them. His proposal advocates (1) innovative, coordinated, green, open and inclusive development to achieve shared prosperity; (2) common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security to achieve security for all; (3) inclusive cooperation for win-win outcomes, so as to build an open world economy; (4) equality, mutual learning, dialogue and inclusiveness between civilizations; and (5) shared growth through discussion and collaboration in global governance, ultimately building a community with a shared future for humanity. Xi's new ideas on development, security, cooperation, civilization and global governance reinforce one another and together form a theory for a new international order.
What challenges does the SCO face today? Some countries and blocs unilaterally develop antimissile systems, eroding the strategic balance of the world, while trade protectionism and unilateralism continue to rise, hampering global growth. Terrorists radicalized in the Middle East return to SCO countries, posing a threat to regional security, while extremist ideology is spread more forcefully online. Drug production, trafficking and abuse are also on the rise, and the risk of terrorist activity funded by drug trafficking is picking up. Both Xi's speech and the Qingdao Declaration provide solutions to many of these challenges.
Critically, Xi outlined two measures to enhance reciprocal trust between SCO member states: to strengthen mutual understanding by empathizing with others' position and to boost harmony and unity by seeking common ground and setting aside differences. Only by approaching an issue from another's perspective in addition to one's own can two parties truly reach consensus. SCO member states have different interests, cultural backgrounds, ways of thinking and religions, and the inclusion of India and Pakistan makes the organization even more diverse. Seeking common ground while putting aside differences is thus essential.
At the summit, member states reiterated the fundamental principle of opposing the fragmentation of international trade ties and all forms of trade protectionism so as to build an open world economy. The SCO leaders issued a joint announcement on the facilitation of international trade, and Xi listed specific measures to scale up regional cooperation. China is set to launch its first international import expo to buy more goods from its SCO partners. A demonstration zone is also to be built in Qingdao for China-SCO local economic and trade cooperation, and a committee of legal services for SCO member states is to be established to provide legal support for business cooperation. Moreover, China will set up a 30-billion-yuan ($4.7 billion) equivalent lending facility within the framework of the SCO Inter-bank Consortium. These are expected to inject more impetus into the growth of the SCO.
In terms of regional security, the Chinese proposal for common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security for all was endorsed by all SCO member states, becoming the guiding principle of security cooperation within the group, with the summit producing a series of measures to cope with security threats in the region.
A plan was put forward to abandon the double standard on defining terrorists and to build a united global counterterrorism front with international law as its cornerstone and the United Nations as its coordinator, along with a commitment to fighting terrorism with holistic approaches. An information exchange mechanism will be promoted to block terrorists attempting to return to the region, and the SCO is to implement the 2019-21 program of cooperation for combating the three forces of terrorism, separatism and extremism, and continue to conduct joint counterterrorism exercises. China also promised to train 2,000 law enforcement officers for other members over the next three years to enhance the group's law enforcement capacity.
The SCO plans to carry out the 2018-23 program of drug control, making the greatest effort to crack down on terrorism funded by drug production and trafficking. The organization will also build a peaceful, safe, open, cooperative and well-ordered cyberspace, preventing the spread of illegal information online. The SCO will facilitate peace and reconstruction in Afghanistan and eliminate external threats that can cause instability in the country. An inclusive peaceful reconciliation process led and owned by the Afghan people is the only way forward on this issue.
In order to enhance cultural exchange among SCO member states, China, during its rotating presidency, organized a number of activities, including a women's forum, a people's forum, a political party forum and a media summit—all being the first of their kind. Xi promised in his address that China will provide 3,000 training opportunities for human resource development in SCO member states over the next three years. In addition, China will offer meteorological services to all parties using its Fengyun-2 weather satellites. The future will see further cooperation in culture, education, science and technology, healthcare, tourism, the arts, sports, environmental protection, youth exchange, and the media, according to a document published by the summit. The promotion of cultural and people-to-people exchange between SCO member states is a crucial part of the organization's vision for the future.
The author is director of the Department for European-Central Asian Studies under the China Institute of International Studies