The 14th prime ministers’ meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) opened in Zhengzhou, Central China’s Henan province on Dec 14.
During the two-day meeting, heads of government from the SCO members China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan are expected to discuss cooperation in trade, investment, finance, transportation and culture. The following are some hot issues at the meeting:
BELT AND ROAD INITIATIVE
The six countries will issue a statement on regional economic cooperation after the meeting, reiterating support for regional development strategies including the China-proposed initiative on the construction of the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, or the Belt and Road Initiative.
The Belt and Road Initiative was put forward by President Xi Jinping during a visit to Kazakhstan in 2013, and has since witnessed tangible commitments by China, including the launch of a New Silk Road Fund worth $40 billion last year.
During an SCO summit in Russia’s Ufa in July, Xi and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed to regard the SCO as an important platform to dovetail the Silk Road Economic Belt initiative and the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU).
Chen Xiaochen, a research fellow at Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies of China’s Renmin University, said that through the Belt and Road Initiative, the SCO will develop rapidly on the ancient Silk Road.
INDUSTRIAL CAPACITY COOPERATION
Premier Li Keqiang first proposed industrial capacity cooperation at the 13th SCO prime ministers’ meeting in the Kazakh capital city of Astana in December 2014.
The proposal to marry China’s industry strengths in the production of steel, cement and other materials with Kazakhstan’s huge demand for such commodities in the coming years has been hailed by many as a classic example of win-win cooperation.
The Chinese Premier’s proposal was warmly received by the Kazakh side, and as a gesture of appreciation, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev even coined the term “Li Plan” to describe the package of industrial capacity cooperation projects Li put forward.
Under the plan, China and Kazakhstan have agreed on scores of deals on industrial capacity cooperation worth over $20 billion.
Within the framework of the SCO, industrial capacity cooperation among the six member states is expected to be further promoted, which will be conducive to the economic recovery of the region and the world at large.
Chinese Vice-Foreign Minister Cheng Guoping has disclosed that a “highlight” of the meeting will be that SCO prime ministers will sign a series of resolutions dealing with the SCO’s cooperation in various fields, and witness the signing of such documents as SCO member states’ customs cooperation plan from 2016 to 2021.
The move will facilitate interconnections and customs clearances among SCO member states as well as their information sharing in the field of law enforcement, including combating smuggling.
SCO DEVELOPMENT BANK
Both expanding trade and advancing interconnections and production capacity cooperation cannot be realized without financial support. At their meeting in Zhengzhou, SCO prime ministers are expected to obligate financial departments of their respective countries to strengthen studies on the establishment of the SCO development bank, implement the consensus reached by the heads of state of their countries, and lay a foundation for speedy substantial progress.
At SCO prime ministers’ meetings over the past two years, Premier Li had been proposing to build a regional platform for financing. Chen believed that fostering investment in innovation is an important way for the world economy to completely exit the crisis.
The proposed SCO development bank as well as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, the new BRICS development bank and the Silk Road Foundation are all driving forces for the SCO, and they will form a complete ecosystem for financing.
Security cooperation and economic cooperation are the “two wheels” of the SCO, especially security cooperation, where the SCO’s scores are obvious.
The security situation in the Eurasian region, where SCO member states are located, is volatile due to a resurgence in terrorist acts around the world, especially by the extremist group the Islamic State (IS).
Also, the rehabilitation progress in Afghanistan faces various difficulties.
At the meeting held in Astana, the first proposal made by Premier Li was to build a strong regional security and stability barrier.