SCO meeting to highlight economic, pandemic cooperation, multilateralism

By Zhang Hui Source: Global Times Published: 2020/11/5 21:48:02

Group to be used as a model for resolving border issues: experts

A flag with the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation's logo. Photo: AFP

Amid the internal and external challenges, the summit of the Council of Heads of State of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) next week is likely to highlight strengthening practical economic and COVID-19 cooperation, and the importance of multilateralism to tackle the impact of hegemony and unilateralism, Chinese analysts said.

The challenges, including domestic conflicts, border disputes, the pandemic and unilateralism, facing the upcoming summit are greater than at any other summit in recent years, Chinese analysts said, noting that it is a summit that seems fraught with risks, but also opportunities. 

The 20th Meeting of the Council of Heads of State of the SCO, which will be held on November 10, is the first multilateral summit that Chinese President Xi Jinping will attend after the 5th plenary session of the 19th Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, and also a major multilateral initiative taken by China in recent years in the Eurasian region, Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng said at a media briefing on Thursday.

The meeting will be hosted via video link by Russia, which holds the rotating SCO presidency this year.

At the summit, President Xi and leaders from other SCO countries will discuss new proposals to deal with challenges and promote security, stability and economic revival, and promote sustained, healthy and stable development of the SCO in the post-pandemic era, Le said.

Participants will also exchange views on the most important tasks to further strengthen SCO cooperation amid the epidemic and major international and regional issues, Le said.

A joint declaration and cooperation agreements in various fields are expected to be announced, Le said. 

Members of SCO are likely to reach agreements on the strategic development plan of the group for the next few years, which include practical cooperation, joint efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, and building consensus on adhering to multilateralism, Sun Zhuangzhi, an expert on Sino-Russian relations at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Thursday. 

Some members like India used the impact of the pandemic to stir up border conflicts with China, and also ditched its nonalignment principle to move closer with the US while hyping decoupling with China, Wang Yiwei, director of the institute of international affairs at Renmin University of China, told the Global Times.

Some Indian media have been speculating whether Xi and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will meet during the SCO meeting, amid unresolved tensions in the China-India border region. 

As for the possibility of bilateral meetings taking place during the SCO meeting, Le said it will be a video summit, unlike a live conference which is convenient for holding bilateral activities.

"We hope leaders will have an opportunity to meet face to face as soon as the epidemic is over," Le said. 

However, a multilateral occasion attended by leaders of both countries provides an opportunity for them to ease conflicts, Wang said. 

The "Shanghai Five," which was later turned into the SCO, has successfully settled disputes and maintained the tranquility of border areas among participating nations, and served as a model for similar issues, Chinese analysts said. 

Members should strengthen mutual trust and promote the Shanghai spirit, marked by mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality, consultation, respect for diverse civilizations and shared development, analysts said. 

As to whether the SCO has become less effective in recent years, Sun dismissed such speculations. 

He said that many multilateral organizations this year have suffered from the impact of US unilateralism and hegemony, and the SCO members will resolve the challenges by adhering to the Shanghai spirit, Sun said.   

The SCO meeting also comes amid the US presidential election. Zhao Huirong, a research fellow of Central Asian studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, believes that the US strategy in the region is likely to show a contraction trend, which will give more room to the SCO members to be independent in policymaking.

Members of the SCO have supported each other in pursuing development paths suited to their own national conditions and taking measures to safeguard national security, oppose external forces' interference in the internal affairs of member states, and resolve differences through dialogue and consultations, Le said. 

The SCO was established in 2001 by China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. India and Pakistan joined as full members in 2017. In addition, Afghanistan, Belarus, Iran and Mongolia have observer status, while six countries, namely Armenia, Azerbaijan, Cambodia, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Turkey, are dialogue partners.  

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