SCO members to be ‘more united in post-Trump era’

By Yang Sheng and Chen Qingqing Source: Global Times Published: 2020/11/10 23:38:40

Xi emphasizes multilateralism, joint efforts amid COVID-19

Chinese President Xi Jinping on Tuesday addresses the 20th meeting of the Council of Heads of State of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in Beijing via video link. Photo: Xinhua

 Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday attended a virtual meeting of the Council of Heads of State of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) via video link hosted by Russia, which holds the rotating SCO presidency this year. 

This marks the first public appearance of top leaders from China and Russia, the "two major competitors" in the eyes of the US, after Joe Biden announced his victory in the US presidential election, and the remarks made by Xi and Putin, as well as other SCO members' leaders, have released new messages to the changing world. 

Xi delivered a keynote speech to emphasize that SCO member countries should adhere to multilateralism amid the COVID-19 pandemic, shedding light on the joint efforts needed to safeguard the international order, suggesting that China will actively consider the COVID-19 vaccine needs of SCO member countries. 

Chinese analysts said the SCO will have new roles to play in a world which is experiencing a serious pandemic and the profound changes within the US - the only superpower in the world. 

The SCO will jointly fight the second wave of COVID-19 and boost the region's post-pandemic economic recovery through cooperation. It will also provide a multilateral platform for member states to mediate their long-standing disputes and de-escalate border tensions. The SCO will fight the "three evils" of terrorism, separatism and religious extremism under the pandemic to further reinforce regional peace, as well as prevent foreign intervention that tries to meddle in the internal affairs of the member states, said experts.

China cannot be separated from the world in achieving development, and the world also needs China for prosperity. Now, China is speeding up efforts to foster a new development paradigm with domestic circulation as the mainstay and domestic and international circulations reinforcing each other, Xi remarked.

Leaders of the SCO members, including China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and India, have exchanged views at the meeting in order to further strengthen cooperation within the SCO framework in the context of the pandemic and major international and regional issues. 

Thanks to the unilateralism and protectionism pushed by the Trump administration in the past four years, the development of the SCO cooperation has experienced a golden era, as under the joint guidance of China and Russia, the organization is getting increasingly united; and in the post-Trump era, the SCO will be even more united, said Chinese experts.

Highlights of President Xi’s speech at SCO summit 2020 Infographic: GT


Dealing with changes

China proposes that hotline contacts be created between SCO members' centers for disease control for timely updates on cross-border transmission of communicable diseases, Xi said.

We need to support the World Health Organization's crucial leadership role, oppose attempts to politicize the pandemic or mislabel the coronavirus, and jointly resist any "political virus," Xi said.

Putin welcomed Xi's statement on the need to avoid politicizing the COVID-19 epidemic situation during the meeting, according to TASS.

The cooperation on vaccines is the most important outcome of the meeting, because this shows the spirit of a community of a shared future among member states, without any bias against different ideologies or beliefs, and this is why countries with different religions and political systems can coexist in this region, said Chinese analysts, adding that this is also the diplomatic faith that China has always insisted on.

Yang Jin, an associate research fellow at the Institute of Russian, Eastern European and Central Asian Studies under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said that "the US, which has the most confirmed cases and casualties in the world, has already paid the price for politicizing the COVID-19 pandemic, so the correct values held by China and Russia should be upheld by not only SCO members, but also the world."

Although many US allies have congratulated Democratic candidate Biden and they are desperately expecting the US to continue to play the role of a leader for them, the divided society and internal struggles will make US hegemony decline unavoidably, so China and Russia, two major powers and UN Security Council permanent members, have to plan for the upcoming changes that the US would bring to the international relations, Yang told the Global Times on Tuesday.

As many Western media are curious about China and Russia's silence over "Biden's victory," Chinese analysts said that the two major powers share a tacit understanding over the US presidential election as they are waiting for the US to solve all potential legal controversies and conclude a final undisputed result.

"China and Russia have always been groundlessly accused by some forces within the US of 'meddling in US elections,' and the two countries share common ground of non-interference in US internal affairs. So now they are very cautious rather than cheering Biden's victory too soon with the Western liberal world," Yang said.

The China-Russia strategic partnership is getting more and more mature as the two countries have formed a highly consistent and tacit strategic mentality, and this solid partnership has not been weakened even a little bit due to the power transition within the US, said Chinese analysts.  

China and Russia have very clear, calm and cautious understanding of the "new world" that Western countries are expecting under the leadership of a new US government led by the Democrats.

New roles, new tasks

It is important that we forestall terrorist, separatist and extremist attempts to exploit the pandemic for disruption, curb the proliferation of drugs, crack down on internet-based propagation of extremist ideology, and deepen SCO members' law-enforcement cooperation, Xi noted.

Yang said that due to the pandemic, many countries' economic development and people's livelihoods in the region have been seriously impacted and this has provided chances for local terrorist groups to recruit more people, which is a new problem for the SCO.

"To fight these forces, military and intelligence cooperation is not enough. Economic cooperation to boost development can effectively wipe out the soil where terrorism and extremism are able to grow," Yang said.

Xi announced at the online meeting that next year, China will host a China-SCO forum on the digital economy industry in Chongqing, which will provide a platform for innovation cooperation among parties.

Li Haidong, a professor at the Institute of International Relations of the China Foreign Affairs University, told the Global Times on Tuesday that "China's advantages in the digital economy has helped it realize many new forms of economic activities amid the epidemic situation. But not every SCO member has such capabilities, so in order to benefit the whole region, intergovernmental and inter-enterprise cooperation are essential."

More importantly, the digital economy is a new sector with vague rules, and in the past the US-led Western world made the rules. But this time, China needs to use the platform of the SCO to reinforce its influence on rule making over the digital economy, Li said.

Putin has voiced Russia's support for Xi's statement concerning the safety of digital data. "In this regard, we will support China's initiative, as well as the idea to hold a digital economy forum in China," Putin said, expressing hope that other SCO member states would be willing to participate in the event next year, TASS reported.

Platform for conflict mediation

In 2020, India has border tensions and even direct conflicts with other SCO members including China and Pakistan, and some Western media and observers consider that the SCO is heading to a divided future. But Chinese analysts said that in fact, the SCO is playing a new role for member states to solve their disputes and de-escalate tensions.

"When the SCO decided to include India and Pakistan, conflicts between the member states from time to time will not be a surprise, so the organization has prepared for such cases," Yang said.

Border disputes between some SCO members are long-standing problems which existed long before they become SCO members, so the SCO is actually providing a platform for them to communicate and engage in dialogues, Yang said. 

"The participation of China, Pakistan and India in the meeting is proof that the problems between them didn't impact the normal operation of the SCO," Yang noted.

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