QINGDAO — Leaders of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization are meeting in Qingdao, a scenic coastal city in Shandong province, for a summit over the weekend that is set to open a new chapter in the bloc’s history.
Seventeen years after its establishment, the SCO has evolved from a security cooperation platform into an organization for comprehensive cooperation, including economic cooperation and people-to-people exchanges.
China has been boosting SCO cooperation with new practical proposals promising benefits to all involved, with the flagship being the Belt and Road Initiative, which President Xi Jinping put forward in 2013.
China-proposed initiatives “bear profound strategic character”, SCO Secretary-General Rashid Alimov told Xinhua News Agency in an interview, stressing the importance of aligning the Belt and Road Initiative with the development strategies of SCO members.
“Xi Jinping is providing visionary and inspiring leadership, not just to China, but also to Asia and the whole world,” said Sudheendra Kulkarni, former chairman of Observer Research Foundation, an Indian think tank.
Over the past five years, a series of major joint projects have been rolled out within the SCO’s framework, steadily improving cross-border logistics and promoting its members’ development.
In 2017, China’s trade with other SCO members totaled $217.6 billion and the trade structure continued to improve, with mechanical equipment, and mechanical and electrical products taking up a larger share, according to the Ministry of Commerce.
The ministry said that in the first quarter of 2018, trade between China and other SCO members increased 20.7 percent year-on-year, higher than last year’s 19 percent annual growth.
During the same period, Chinese investment in other SCO countries reached $84 billion, with several large energy, mining and industrial projects progressing smoothly, according to the ministry.
In a recent interview with Xinhua, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev referred to the SCO’s efforts to enhance synergy with the Eurasian Economic Union and the Belt and Road Initiative, and expressed optimism about regional trade and economic cooperation.
Such alignment, said the Kazakh president, would create conditions conducive to a future free trade zone within the SCO.