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【China Daily】 Shanghai spirit

Tuesday,Jun 19, 2018

 

Qingdao summit primes SCO to play more substantial role on world stage

President Xi Jinping has called for a more open world economy, labeling moves toward protectionism as "self-centered and short-sighted".

Xi re-emphasized his commitment to globalization in his keynote speech to the plenary session of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization Summit in Qingdao, Shandong province, on June 10.

"We should uphold WTO rules and support the multilateral trading system so as to build an open world economy," he said.

The president said the SCO, which was formed in 2001 and is based on the concept of the "Shanghai Spirit", the organization’s underlying principle, was a model of what countries could do if they worked together.

"The ’Shanghai Spirit’, transcending outdated concepts such as clash of civilizations, Cold War and zero-sum mentality, has opened a new chapter in the history of international relations, and gained increasing endorsement of the international community," he said.

Qingdao was the first SCO summit since June last year in Astana, Kazakhstan, when India and Pakistan became full members, bringing more than 1.5 billion additional people to the grouping.

These nations have added a South Asian dimension to the organization, whose full members before the two new entries were Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, in addition to China.

The SCO is now a formidable organization, with its full members taking in around half of the world’s population and a quarter of global GDP. It also has four observer members (Afghanistan, Belarus, Iran and Mongolia) as well as six dialogue partners (Azerbaijan, Armenia, Cambodia, Nepal, Turkey and Sri Lanka).

Among the key announcements at this year’s summit was a commitment by China to establish a 30 billion yuan ($4.7 billion; 4 billion euros; £3.5 billion) special lending facility within the framework of the Interbank Consortium of the SCO.

The facility is likely to dovetail with China’s Belt and Road Initiative and provide funding for infrastructure and investment projects in the region.

China also committed to train 2,000 law enforcement officers within the SCO member countries over the next three years to strengthen law enforcement. It also will provide 3,000 training opportunities for SCO member countries.

Leaders of the SCO members signed 23 cooperative documents covering everything from security and politics to economics and culture.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said the summit, the first to be held in China outside of either Shanghai or Beijing, was a "new landmark" in the organization’s history, adding that it had concluded with "the most fruitful outcomes".

Many observers at the summit believed that one of the big differences between this summit and previous ones was that the organization has broadened its scope beyond focusing primarily on security issues.

He Weiwen, a former economic and commercial counselor in the Chinese consulates general in San Francisco and New York, says the SCO has set itself a bold agenda.

"In the past, the SCO has been focused mostly on security in Central Asia, but at this summit there was a focus also on global governance issues, the multilateral trading system, which is facing severe challenges currently with the threat of protectionism, and economic issues generally," he says.

Khalid Taimur Akram, executive director of the Center for Global and Strategic Studies based in Islamabad, Pakistan, also says it was an evolution.

"To date, the SCO has largely concentrated on regional nontraditional security governance and specifically its fight against regional terrorism, ethnic separatism and regional extremism," he says.

"But the SCO Charter sets out a broad range of other objectives and areas of cooperation, which go far beyond security concerns, and this has great potential for further regional integration."

Some also contrasted the summit, which endorsed the China-sponsored initiative of building a community of a shared future for mankind, with the G7 meeting of developed nations, which took place in Quebec on June 8 and 9.

Former counselor He, also co-director of the China-US/EU Study Center at the China Association of International Trade, says the obvious difference was the mutual respect the SCO members had for each other.

"All the members have different positions and values, yet they respect each other and seek to work together to achieve something of mutual benefit. On that basis, we have the harmony of good neighbors," he says.

"This was not the case with the G7. (US President Donald) Trump hasn’t respected multilateral trade rules and has imposed tariffs unilaterally, taking no account of others."

Jon R. Taylor, professor of political science at the University of St. Thomas in Houston, Texas, also believes there was a sharp contrast between the outcomes at Qingdao and Quebec.

"While Xi projected calm, creative statesmanship at the summit and was able to project a win-win consensus, by contrast Trump looked like a man out of his league," he says.

He adds that Trump was "stuck in the failed economic policies of the 1920s and happy to reject the West’s long-term consensus".

Luigi Gambardella, president of ChinaEU, a Brussels-based internet and telecommunications platform for business leaders, agrees that the summit delivered a united message.

"The summit produced a success in demonstrating the unity among member countries as well as leaders’ will and commitment in multilateralism and cooperation," he says.

Wang Huiyao, president of the Centre for China and Globalization (CCG), a leading Beijing-based think tank, believes there is now a real synergy between the SCO and China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

"I think this gives the SCO real future potential, because China’s Belt and Road Initiative has this large involvement with Central Asia. They go hand in hand, and if China can get SCO countries to cooperate and work with the Belt and Road, it is a very important path for future success and one that could transform the whole region," he says.

Ivona Ladjevac, head of the regional center for the Belt and Road Initiative at the Institute of International Politics and Economics in Belgrade, Serbia, also believes this to be the case.

"The importance and value of the SCO is recognized by China in the scope of the Belt and Road Initiative. Namely, not only that the SCO guarantees a secure environment, but it also guarantees smooth economic development," she says.

Xi, at a banquet on the eve of the summit, linked the "Shanghai Spirit" to Confucianism, particularly relevant to this year’s meeting since Shandong, where it was being held, was the birthplace of the great Chinese philosopher.

He said there was much in common between Confucianism, with its emphasis on unity and harmony, and the values of the SCO, which are based on mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality, consultation, respect for diversity of civilizations and the pursuit of common development.

Wang Huiyao, also a counselor to the State Council, China’s Cabinet, says the summit also gave "Shanghai Spirit" a new meaning.

"This is a really big idea, and it has been emboldened by this summit. Building a community of a shared future for mankind, which has been ratified by all the members, will be a path to future success for the whole region," he says.

The summit set a very strong platform for the SCO to move on to play a more substantial role on the world stage.

B.R. Deepak, a professor at the Centre for Chinese and South East Asian Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, says the SCO is now one of the most successful multilateral organizations in the world and is a new model for regional economic and security cooperation.

"With India and China as its members, the contribution they are making together with other members to global economic growth and prosperity is significant," he says.

"The inclusion of more members, and perhaps further expansion into the Middle East and Europe, will turn the bloc into a real Eurasian organization."

Former trade diplomat He says, however, that the SCO was not trying to rival the G7 - even though its members now had a much larger population.

"The SCO is not about challenging the existing world order and, indeed, it has a cooperative relationship with both the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund," he says.

"There is no intention of rivaling the G7, since its members still lead the world in terms of technology, the size of their economics and their strength in finance. We need to work with them."

 

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