Expanded SCO set to meet

By Yang Sheng Source:Global Times Published: 2017/11/30 0:23:39

China should focus on preserving group’s unity: experts

The first meeting of the heads of government from Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) member countries following the organization's expansion will be held on Thursday, with experts saying China needs to focus on preserving the organization's unity.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang concluded his visit to Hungary and left for the Russian coastal city of Sochi on Wednesday for the 16th meeting of the Council of Heads of Government (prime ministers) of the SCO from Thursday to Friday, the Xinhua News Agency reported on Wednesday.

This is the first meeting between member states' heads of government after India and Pakistan became SCO full members at the Astana Summit in June, and also the first major diplomatic event of the Euro-Asia continent after the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China.

As the first rotating presidency of the SCO since its expansion, China will work with various parties to push forward and deepen the joint construction of the "Belt and Road" cooperation, and reach a new consensus on enhancing the integration of development strategies, connectivity, production capacity cooperation, people-to-people and cultural exchanges and other fields, the Chinese foreign ministry said.

China's role in the SCO is unshakable but India's membership will bring challenges to the SCO, Hu Zhiyong, a research fellow at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences' Institute of International Relations, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

"India, in many cases, unreasonably opposed China's agenda and showed a negative attitude toward the Belt and Road initiative, so China needs to consider how to change India's mind-set through diplomacy.  Otherwise, the SCO's unity and efficiency will surely be affected," Hu said.

On November 20, China criticized a visit by Indian President Ram Nath Kovind to disputed areas. Aside from border issues, India opposes China's plan to enlarge the BRICS, known as BRICS Plus.

China hopes to turn the SCO into an organization which secures the construction of the Belt and Road.  That means counter-terrorism and security cooperation will be a key topic for the organization. But this type of cooperation requires a very high level of mutual trust among members, said Wang Yiwei, an expert from Renmin University of China.

"Unfortunately, the mutual trust between China and India is not very high, and the hostility between India and Pakistan is also difficult to change," Wang noted.

In some areas, such as counter-terrorist personnel training and joint exercises, we can try to find common ground with India, since both China and India are victims of terrorism, Hu said.

"But we cannot always follow India's definition of terrorism because it might harm our best friend Pakistan. India and Pakistan always criticize each other as 'the supporter of terrorism.' China and the SCO should not get too involved in their bilateral issues," Hu remarked.

Economic focus

"Premier Li Keqiang will publicize and introduce the importance of the relevant policies of major-country diplomacy with Chinese characteristics in the new era to further the development of China's relations with SCO member states," read a statement from the Chinese foreign ministry.

Although security cooperation is a key motivation to the SCO's establishment, China expects the organization to get more involved in economic matters to promote trade and openness in the region, which also meet the requirements of member states, since economic development will fundamentally weaken terrorism and extremism, Wang of Renmin University said.

Chinese assistant minister of commerce Li Chenggang said previously that China has three expectations on economics and trade from this meeting. "First is to push forward economic and trade investment and cooperation and tap new impetus for economic growth. Second is to expand cooperation areas and add development engines. Third is to jointly support multilateral trading regime and oppose trade protectionism."

Posted in: DIPLOMACY

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