The heads of government of Shanghai Cooperation Organization member countries, at their 15th meeting in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, on Nov 3, reiterated their long-standing commitment to safeguarding regional peace, stability and development. Established in 2001, the bloc, comprising China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, has been gaining increasing influence in regional political, economic and security areas.
Contrary to speculations that China and Russia intend to create a “NATO-like organization”, the SCO has held high the “Shanghai Spirit” of mutual trust, reciprocity, equality, consultation, respect for diverse societies and common development.
Through their practical cooperation in ever-increasing fields, the SCO members have been catalyzing regional economic development, and, more importantly, responding to the challenges that threaten regional peace and stability.
What was originally a simple mechanism aimed at building trust along border areas and taking forward the disarmament process has, over the years, become an influential bloc with six full members and 12 observer states and dialogue partners. Driving its two wheels of security and economic cooperation in a steady pace, the SCO is indeed injecting positive energy into the region.
In Bishkek, Premier Li put forward a six-point proposal, urging all SCO member states to adhere to a common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security concept, through such measures as increasing information exchanges and deepening cooperation in law enforcement so as to ensure the safety of their peoples, institutions and enterprises.
The proposal reflects China’s continuous efforts to build a new security concept that takes into consideration the changing realities of the world’s political, economic and security landscapes.
The world is moving toward democratization of international relations and away from power politics. The global economic recovery is dragging its feet, and the international community has to grapple with rampant terrorism in the Middle East and the spread of extremist ideology across the globe.
For leaders of the SCO, they need to take all this into consideration and come up with practical ways of promoting regional peace and development. This is no easy task considering that the SCO member states are at different stages of development and have different cultural and social backgrounds.
But what has been achieved in the past 15 years has gone beyond people’s expectations and is enough to dispel unnecessary speculation over China’s or Russia’s hidden agenda of expanding their own sphere of influence through the SCO.
The agenda of the SCO has always been for the well-being of the people — to give them a better and more secure life. The bloc, together with its observer states and dialogue partners, boasts one-third of the world’s total GDP volume and almost half of the world’s population.
Over the years, through measures such as joint military exercises and joint law enforcement in border areas, the bloc has effectively kept the three evil forces of terrorism, separatism and extremism at bay. The member states have also designed various schemes to alleviate poverty, create jobs, conduct people-to-people exchanges and improve infrastructure construction. SCO leaders fully understand the reasons behind the rising non-traditional challenges facing the region and the world, and the necessity to address both the symptoms and the root causes of terrorism and extremism.
Without the elimination of poverty and the outdated social and economic environment, the soil that breeds terrorism and extremism cannot be cleansed. This is something some Western countries, the United States in particular, have never bothered to ponder.
The US-led “war on terror” in the Middle East, Afghanistan and Pakistan has only focused on eliminating terrorists without paying attention to the causes that lead to the spread of extremist ideology.
In this context, the SCO has set a good example in regional governance: It is stepping up security cooperation without interfering in countries’ internal affairs and conjoining their national development plans to rejuvenate the economy. This explains why the SCO is attracting more countries in the region to become its members.