The upcoming 18th summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) to be held in China is expected to see leaders discuss the implementation of the bloc's guiding "Shanghai Spirit" and the prospect of a community with a shared future that leads to the common prosperity of member countries.
From June 9 to 10, leaders of SCO member states will gather in China's eastern seaport and tourist resort of Qingdao, Shandong Province, with the aim of enhancing political support, maintaining regional security and stability, strengthening economic cooperation, as well as expanding people-to-people exchanges.
Established nearly 17 years ago with the initial goal of tackling regional security issues, the SCO, now grouping China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, India and Pakistan, has evolved into a comprehensive organization with growing international influence.
Upholding the Shanghai Spirit
In today's world where profound changes are happening at a rapid pace and uncertainties are on the rise, the SCO has come to realize the urgent need for member countries to stick to the organization's guiding principles enshrined in what is known as the "Shanghai Spirit."
The Shanghai Spirit features mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality, consultation, respect for cultural diversity and the pursuit of common development.
In a meeting with a group of foreign ministers from the SCO member countries in late April, Chinese President Xi Jinping called on member countries to remain true to their original aspirations, firmly advocate the Shanghai
Spirit, fully unleash the SCO's potential after its expansion and forge ahead with all-round cooperation.
The SCO welcomed its newest members during the 2017 summit in Astana, Kazakhstan by giving India and Pakistan full membership status.
With eight full members, four observer countries and six dialogue partners, the organization now covers over 60 percent of the Eurasian landmass, nearly half of the world's population and more than 20 percent of global gross domestic product.
China, Xi said, is ready to work with other member countries to continue to support each other politically, safeguard regional security and stability, gradually establish institutional arrangements of regional economic cooperation, and expand people-to-people exchanges and cultural cooperation.
Also during the foreign ministers' meeting, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi called the Shanghai Spirit "the fundamental reason why the SCO can keep growing."
He called for taking the upcoming summit as an opportunity to review the Shanghai Spirit, strengthen solidarity, mutual trust and all-round cooperation, and forge a closer community with a shared future.
"The need for multilateral solutions (for world affairs) is absolutely evident, " said Anatoly Klimenko, a geopolitics expert at the Far East Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
"As they (the Chinese people) say, it takes two to tango," he said, stressing the importance of dialogue in solving complicated problems. "A unilateral attitude may result in confrontation," Klimenko said.
Echoing Xi's call for institutionalizing regional economic cooperation within the SCO, the expert suggested that certain decision-making structures be created to enable the bloc to act in different sectors, including politics, economy, defense and humanitarian issues.
"Initially, the SCO was perceived as a kind of a club for the discussion of certain problems," Klimenko said. That perception, he added, has led to a "scientific attitude" shared by Russian and Chinese scholars, one that focuses on restructuring the SCO so as to "give shape and implement the decisions that are taken."
Safeguarding Security and Stability
Although the content of cooperation within the SCO has been enriched to include promoting economic development and fostering closer ties among ordinary citizens of the member countries, addressing regional security issues and enhancing defense collaboration remain an important pillar of the bloc's missions.
Since its establishment, the SCO has made maintaining regional security and stability a priority, and its enlargement will inject more potential into the organization for security cooperation. At the same time, the SCO will also shoulder more responsibilities and bear greater expectations from people in the region as well as from around the world.
Against the backdrop of continual threats posed by the "three evil forces" of terrorism, extremism and separatism, drug trafficking, as well as transnational organized crimes, Xi told a gathering of senior security officials of SCO member states in Beijing to "remain vigilant, think calmly, judge accurately and respond properly" in the face of contingencies.
Between 2013 and 2017, the SCO member countries have collaboratively foiled over 600 cases of criminal activities bearing hallmarks of terrorism, destroyed more than 500 training bases for armed militants, arrested some 2,000 members of international terrorist organizations, and confiscated some 1,000 self-made explosive devices, more than 50 tons of explosive materials, over 10,000 guns as well as some 1 million bullets, said Yevgeniy Sysoev, director of the bloc's anti-terrorism committee.
In an exclusive interview with Xinhua in early May, Sysoev also said that the SCO member countries have blocked over 100,000 websites between 2016 and 2017. Those websites, the official said, published over 4 million pieces of information advocating terrorism and extremism.
With respect to the international anti-terrorism front, one of the pressing tasks facing the SCO is to continue fighting against militants of the Islamic State (IS) who, following the extremist group's defeat in Syria and Iraq, have returned to their native countries, some of which are SCO members or observers.
The SCO, Klimenko said, "must be able to defend its participants, especially because the situation is getting more and more complicated."
"We have Afghanistan at our side, to which IS militants are moving from the Middle East and are concentrating in the north of the country close to the SCO borders," he added. Afghanistan became an observer country of the SCO in 2012.
Acknowledging the number of military exercises such as the biennial Pacific Mission drills that are held on a multilateral basis within the SCO, Klimenko said, "All military contingents are preparing themselves to defend the SCO space."
Seventeen years into its existence, the SCO can be said to have now entered adolescence. This process of maturation is in part marked by the bloc's resolve to engage in economic cooperation and realize common prosperity, a consensus agreed on by all member states that has been growing stronger every year.
To achieve that end, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has become a major potential platform for the economic dimension of the SCO. Proposed by China in 2013, the BRI is aimed at improving interconnectivity worldwide and promoting global trade links through infrastructure projects.
The BRI's full name is the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, which suggests that the framework has a land-based component that stretches along the Ancient Silk Road, as well as a sea route that connects the Pacific and Indian Oceans. Combined, the two parts are expected to connect Asia with Europe and Africa.
Strengthening economic cooperation within the SCO on the BRI has special implications in the sense that all parties involved in the organization are located on the Eurasian continent, and that projects related to SCO member states carry particular significance in the BRI framework.
Take the China-Belarus industrial park for example. The park is the largest foreign investment project in Belarus -- also an SCO observer country -- and an important cooperation project between China and Belarus under the BRI.
Located at the junction between the Eurasian Customs Union and the European Union, Belarus views the industrial park as a strategic project that provides hope for the country's future economic development and is ready to forge a closer link between the two vigorous markets.
When hosting Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan who visited Belarus on May 27-29, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said his country is ready to join forces with China to align their development strategies and turn the China-Belarus industrial park into a pearl on the Silk Road Economic Belt.
The 34 enterprises based in the industrial park so far represent eight countries, namely China, Belarus, Russia, the United States, Germany, Austria, Lithuania and Israel, making the park a multinational business hub.
The park is now planning to cooperate with Duisburger Hafen AG, the German company that runs the country's Duisburg port, to construct a railway directly linking the park with the China-Europe rail lines, which are providing freight services to meet the ever-increasing demands of both sides.
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