China’s top diplomat starts Central Asia visit; SCO’s role highlighted: expert
Expansion, anti-terrorism top priorities of this year’s SCO meetings, said experts
Published: May 19, 2024 08:26 PM Updated: May 19, 2024 10:26 PM
 Shanghai Cooperation Organization Photo: VCG

Shanghai Cooperation Organization Photo: VCG

China's top diplomat Wang Yi's visit to Central Asia where he will also attend a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs will further enhance China's cooperation with the region, and better coordinate and prepare for the upcoming meeting of the Council of Heads of State of the SCO, Chinese experts said. They believe the SCO's expansion and anti-terrorism efforts will top the agenda of this year's meetings, and further highlight the organization's influence and important role under a complicated international environment.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang, who is also a member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, met with Tajik President Emomali Rahmon in Dushanbe on Saturday, with both sides pledging to expand bilateral cooperation in various areas.

Wang noted that China and Tajikistan, linked by mountains and rivers, have cultivated a profound traditional friendship. The two sides have always respected each other, treated each other as equals and extended mutual support at critical moments.

China is willing to deepen security cooperation with Tajikistan and resolutely combat all forms of terrorism, Wang said, adding that the two sides can strengthen cooperation in the United Nations, the SCO and the China-Central Asia mechanism, safeguard the common interests of the two countries and other developing countries, and make due contributions to the prosperity and stability of the region and the world at large.

Rahmon stressed that promoting relations with China is a priority of Tajikistan's foreign policy. The Tajik side firmly upholds the one-China principle and holds that Taiwan is an inalienable part of China.

Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin announced on Thursday that at the invitation of Kazakhstan's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Murat Nurtleu and Tajikistan's Minister of Foreign Affairs Sirojiddin Muhriddin, Wang will attend the meeting of the SCO Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs and pay official visits to Kazakhstan and Tajikistan from May 18 to 21.

Wang's visit is set to coordinate and prepare for this year's meeting of the Council of Heads of State of SCO. The expansion of this organization, as well as anti-terrorism will top the agenda of this year's SCO meetings, given the current complicated international circumstances, Cui Heng, a scholar from the Shanghai-based China National Institute for SCO International Exchange and Judicial Cooperation, told the Global Times on Sunday.

In March, Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev said at a meeting in Boao, South China's Hainan Province, that all leaders of SCO member states plan to take part in the upcoming summit of the association in Astana in July, Russian News Agency TASS reported.

Belarus plans to become a full member of the SCO in July, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said, as quoted by the Belarusian state-run news agency BelTA in March. 

Moreover, Saudi Arabia's cabinet also approved a decision to join the SCO last year, Reuters reported.

With the inclusion of those countries, the SCO can better coordinate its actions within the region and enhance its influence, Cui said, noting that the organization's function in fighting terrorism is highlighted when terrorist attacks threatened some member countries.

Both Russia and Pakistan have been hit by terrorist attacks this year. Zhang Ming, Secretary General of the SCO told the Global Times in an exclusive interview in March that the SCO strongly condemns such terrorist acts, which prompted more agreements in the SCO to unite with the international community to resolutely combat the "three forces" of terrorism, separatism and extremism, Zhang said. 

Member states of the SCO always tend to reach consensus through consultation on many major issues, unifying their positions on the solutions to relevant problems. In recent years, the SCO has been continuously strengthening cooperation with other international organizations, contributing new ideas and providing new solutions to global governance, representing a more democratic and multipolar world order, Zhu Yongbiao, director of the Center for Afghanistan Studies at Lanzhou University, told the Global Times on Sunday. 

Experts also noted Wang's visit will further deepen cooperation with Central Asian countries, as China's cooperation with those countries on both traditional and new areas are gaining momentum. China will take the rotating chair of the SCO from Kazakhstan in the second half of this year, thus Wang's visit to Kazakhstan aims to further negotiate cooperation on chairing the organization in the next year, said Cui.

As China and Russia's ties are developing with frequent exchanges, Western media began to hype China's ties with Central Asia. For example, a piece in the Economist reported last year that China and Russia are competing for Central Asia's favor.

Communication and cooperation between China and Central Asia have entered a new stage, but on this issue, China and Russia have reached a high level of strategic mutual trust, Zhu said, describing the Western media's hype as old tactics intended to sow discord between China and Russia. It is evidence of a "zero-sum" mentality, he said.