President Xi has articulated the greatest common denominator of SCO: Global Times editorial
Published: Jul 05, 2023 12:12 AM Updated: Jul 05, 2023 12:09 AM
Shanghai Cooperation Organization Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

On July 4, the 23rd Meeting of the Council of Heads of State of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) was held. President Xi Jinping delivered an important speech titled "Staying true to our founding mission and advancing unity and coordination to realize greater development." He pointed out that sustaining peace and security is our common responsibility, promoting economic growth is a common task for all countries in the region, and all nations in the region aspire to see harmonious development of different civilizations. Human society faces unprecedented challenges, and to the questions raised by our times, President Xi’s answer is: the people's wish for a happy life is our goal, and peace, development and win-win cooperation are the unstoppable trends of the times.

President Xi's remarks grasp the essence of regional and global issues and provides China's propositions and solutions, such as the Global Development Initiative, Global Security Initiative and Global Civilization Initiative. More Specifically, China proposes that the SCO promote the establishment of an SCO development bank and enhance the connection of high-quality Belt and Road cooperation with development strategies of various countries and regional cooperation initiatives. People are looking forward to further strengthening policy measures such as improving connectivity in the future. 

In this important speech, President Xi also emphasized the "right direction" for the SCO, which encompasses two specific aspects. First, regarding internal interactions, China advocates for "bridging differences through dialogue, and replacing competition with cooperation.” We should truly respect each other's core interests and major concerns, and firmly support each other's endeavor for development and rejuvenation. Second, the speech addresses the correct way to interact with the external world, with the core principle being "independence and autonomy." We must be highly vigilant against external attempts to foment a “new Cold War” or camp-based confrontation in our region. The future of our development must be held firmly in our own hands. This not only represents the right direction advocated by China but also condensed the successful practices of the SCO over the years.

President Xi's important speech encapsulates the greatest common denominator of the SCO and comprehensively addresses the core demands of member countries, thereby generating widespread resonance. Considering that the SCO covers over 40 percent of the global population, about a quarter of the world's land area, with a combined GDP exceeding $23 trillion, and its member states have complex and even contentious relationships, it is extremely challenging for such a vast international organization to seek core consensus, overcome and transcend significant differences and specific disputes, and achieve broad unity and cooperation. It can be said that the SCO has achieved this, making it a successful international organization characterized by pioneering and exploratory endeavors.

According to Western geopolitical thinking and logic, the SCO lacks a common external enemy and faces prominent internal contradictions. Additionally, unlike Western alliance systems with a clear leader like the US, the SCO's member states are considered equal. This line of thinking suggests that such an international organization is difficult to establish and even if it is established, it would struggle to achieve significant progress and growth. 

However, in reality, after 22 years of development, the SCO has evolved into a "big family" with nine member states, three observer states, and 14 dialogue partners, totaling 26 members. Many countries showed great interest in the SCO. This demonstrates that beyond surface-level conflicts and disagreements, there is a stronger force and resilient bond that brings everyone together, as President Xi mentioned: the people's wish for a happy life and the unstoppable trends of peace, development and win-win cooperation.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi also referred to the SCO as a "big family" in his speech on Tuesday. It is evident that SCO members cherish the atmosphere of unity and mutual trust, and they have a tacit understanding not to bring bilateral issues into the organization to affect their unity. As the US intensifies its mobilization for a "new Cold War" and global governance mechanisms face difficulties and fragmentation, there is a widespread sense of being at a loss in the international community, particularly among developing countries who feel disoriented. This is when there is a need for a new organization and mode of interaction to provide the world with an alternative and hope. The global significance of the SCO lies in this aspect—it provides support for improving global governance through concrete actions.

Under the backdrop of a major global transformation, the SCO also faces various challenges. The threats posed by both traditional and non-traditional security issues have become more prominent. Economic cooperation encounters internal and external obstacles, leading to slow progress. The negative impact of external forces on the SCO cannot be ignored. The prolonged and complex Ukraine crisis has also had a spillover effect on the organization. Some existing mechanisms of the SCO may require reform and adjustments, and its execution power and efficiency need continuous improvement. However, we believe that the SCO will withstand these tests. With more like-minded countries joining the organization, the SCO will demonstrate even greater vitality.