Chinese President Xi Jinping has spoken at the main plenary session of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation members, observers and dialogue partners. In his remarks, President Xi stressed the importance of of a cooperative approach to both economic expansion and security matters. Xi emphasised that far from trying to establish an atmosphere of group-think, the SCO derives its strength from its diversity and the ability of partners of offer different views in the pursuit of common goals.
Stressing the importance of the “non-alliance, non-confrontation and not target any third party” platform on which the SCO is built, Xi emphasised the group’s stance against the “zero-sum, Cold War mentality” as well as the dangerous “clash of civilisations” model that many leaders in the west have worryingly embraced. In a message clearly directly at Donald Trump’s new protectionist policies, Xi Jinping stated,
“While unilateralism, trade protectionism and the backlash against globalization are taking new forms, the pursuit of cooperation for mutual benefits represents a surging trend”.
At the conclusion of the plenary session, Xi announced the signing of a Treaty on Long-Term Good Neighbourlyness, Friendship and Cooperation of the SCO Member States”, which aims to further harmonise future initiatives among the group of nations. Xi emphasised that on a global scale, “the trend towards multipolarity and economic globalisation is deepening”. Because of this XI said that countries are today more interdependent than ever before.
The Chinese President then confirmed that all SCO parties will “reject protectionism in any form” but will instead work towards a deeper, closer, fairer, freer and at all times rules based trading regime in order to promote peace through development and prosperity. He then stated that as part of this drive for greater interconnectivity and cooperation that all parties will be able to utilise the One Belt–One Road initiative in order to enhances both physical and inter-governmental trading mechanisms.
Xi Jinping also emphasised the importance of combining intensified economic cooperation with cooperation in the spheres of education, science, technology, health, environmental protections, tourism, media, sport and cultural exchange, re-stating that the unique cultural diversity of SCO members must at all times be respected in the process of bilateral and multilateral agreements in order for cultural diversity to serve as a means of creating more harmonious relationships across the borders of great civilisations.
Russian President Putin devoted his speech to the plenary session of the SCO to stressing the importance of the fight against terrorism which continues throughout multiple regions. Speaking specifically about Syria, Putin emphasised that that the Syrian government supports the Sochi dialogue format for a negotiated peaceful settlement to the conflict. Putin further stressed that Damascus is prepared to provide representatives for a Constitutional convention and stressed that now it is up to the so-called opposition to show a similar level of enthusiasm.
The Russian President further thanked Turkey and Iran, whose President Hassan Rouhani was in attendance at the meeting for their invaluable cooperation in the Syrian fight against terrorism while also thanking fellow SCO member Kazakhstan for an important contribution.
Speaking at a press conference after the plenary session, the Russian President emphasised his optimism at the progress made in helping the Eurasian Economic Union and the One Belt–Road Initiative to work with an intimate intensity with an aim towards merging common mechanisms for common goals. He praised the increase in bilateral trade between his country and China and stated that in the future both sides will work to increase trade throughout the remainder of 2018 and into 2019 when the China-Eurasian Economic Union free trade agreement comes into full effect.
Putin further praised the SCO’s expansion both in terms of membership and in terms of the scope of its collective agenda which he said would help to settle old disputes and open new doors for cooperation.
Pakistan’s President Mamnoon Hussain was spotting sharing a handshake with traditional regional rival Indian Premier Modi earlier in the day, before speaking about the importance of SCO cooperation in combating terrorism and poverty. President Hussain praised the recent ceasefire between the government and Taliban in Afghanistan and noted the importance of the SCO in helping to secure a lasting peace in Pakistan’s troubled neighbour.
Mamnoon Hussain further welcomed the SCO’s agreements to fight the proliferation of illicit drugs in the region, something that has fuelled terrorism both financially and in the sense that most terrorist fighters inject powerful narcotics prior to committing their atrocities. Earlier, the Presidents of Pakistan and China met and affirmed their commitment to an all-weather partnership while both sides also spoke of their commitment to further pursue trade in the One Belt–One Road format, particularly as it relates to CPEC.
In spite of well known disagreements with both China and Pakistan, Indian Premier Narendra Modi stressed the importance of the SCO to his country, while also speaking about the need to bring peace to Afghanistan, though without going into the specifics of a multi-party peace plan that is endorsed by Pakistan. Modi also emphasised the role of shared digital partnerships across the SCO.
Veteran Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev spoke of the importance of using the SCO to foster not only greater security cooperation but also to foster more interconnected trading relationships. Earlier this week, Nazarbayev met with Chinese President Xi on the sidelines of the summit to affirm Kazakhstan’s commitment to deeper integration into the One Belt–One Road trading initiative.
Kyrgyz President Sooronbay Jeenbekov also addressed the issue of Afghan peace stating that the SCO working together to settling the long conflict in the country is crucial to the overall peace and stability of both south and central Asia. Jeenbekov further stated that he looks forward to working with fellow SCO members including China on large scale transport and logistic projects to help integrate and streamline trade in central Asia.
Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev echoed these remarks, emphasising the SCO’s role as an important facilitator of dialogue in Afghanistan while also welcoming India and Pakistan to their first plenary meeting of the SCO as full members. Mirziyoyev also emphasised the importance of harmonising trade through transport corridors throughout central Asian regions.
Tajik President Emomali Rahmon who shares a border with Afghanistan once again emphasised the importance of cooperation against terrorism and extremism throughout the SCO with a particular emphasis on Afghanistan. He also spoke about the need to use environmentally friendly technology to enhance self-sufficiency and sustainable development across the SCO.
It can be said that the 2018 SCO Summit in Qingdao was the most successful to-date not only because this year’s summit featured the largest number of SCO members, observers and dialogue partners but because the scope of the SCO’s agenda for providing peace and security through prosperity and development continues to expand.
Apart from both multilateral and bilateral agreements signed to increase trade throughout regions covered by the SCO, all members showed an increasingly hands-on approach to tackling extremism, separatism, narcotics proliferation and criminality.
In an era when the neo-liberal model of much of the west has clearly failed to deliver adequate and sustainable developmental potential to Asia, Africa and Latin America and with the US withdrawing from the world behind a wall of unilateral protectionism, the SCO is more important than ever as an instrument of deeper inter-connectivity for nations whose future is mutual-interdependent and all rely on the possibilities that are implicit in deeper cooperation over trade, infrastructure, investment, loans and security cooperation.
In this sense, the Shanghai Spirit is the guiding force behind progress throughout the multipolar world and in particular in the growing alliance of Asian nations.