SCO Summit in Samarkand Pits the ‘Shanghai Spirit’ Against Geopolitics
19 September 2022
EIRNS—The following is an overview report on the SCO summit and related diplomacy.
The summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization this year was a watershed moment in a world now engulfed in great crisis. In Europe, with the forces of the Anglo-Americans and NATO conducting a proxy war against Russia, and the attempts in the Asia-Pacific region to create a NATO-like formation aimed against China and Russia, the meeting of the leaders of the eight SCO countries from Central Eurasia charted an alternative pathway out of the present world crisis. Uzbekistan is this year’s chair of the SCO and the summit was held inSamarkand, one of the ancient treasures of the old Silk Road.
The primary actor in this year’s event was, however, Chinese President Xi Jinping, who was making his first visit abroad since the onset of the COVID crisis in January 2020. The conference is also occurring just a few weeks before the all-important 20th CPC Party Congress on Oct. 19, at which, in all likelihood, the Chinese President will be chosen for a third term in office, but most of the other government officials will change. It is also the period when the world is facing, as President Xi has continually said, a situation not seen in a century, noting the COVID crisis and the rise of an Asian developing country, namely China, as a leading force in the world economy. China has also made clear that it feels that the present system of global governance, in which the West, and particularly, the United States, has the final say, is no longer viable in a world whose other major actors are now playing a more decisive role in the world economy.
The reaction of the West to the possibility of a multipolar, rather than a unipolar world—in which countries like China and Russia with their own unique system of governance unlike the Western “parliamentary structure”—has led to frantic attempts to whittle down the power and the influence of these countries, and, in the case of Russia, to do so militarily. The Samarkand summit has charted a path toward a new form of governance based on mutual consultation, mutual respect and shared benefits.
On his way to Samarkand, President Xi made a state visit to Kazakhstan, the country where he had first announced his groundbreaking Belt and Road Initiative on Sept. 7, 2013. He was received royally by Kazakhstan’s President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev and awarded the Order of the Golden Eagle, Kazakhstan’s highest civilian award. The two countries renewed their commitment to cooperation and to working together on the Belt and Road Initiative. They committed to working for Xi’s vision of a community for shared interest and a high-quality Belt and Road Initiative. They signed bilateral cooperation documents in trade and investment, connectivity, finance, water conservancy, and the media. They also decided to set up new consulates in Xi’an, China and Aktobe, Kazakhstan.
Similarly in Uzbekistan, where he conducted a state visit prior to the SCO summit, he was greeted at the Samarkand airport by President Shavkat Mirziyoyev and a dance troupe on the tarmac. President Xi then reviewed a troop of Uzbek soldiers in a formal arrival ceremony. Here also they made assurances of continued cooperation on the Belt and Road Initiative, with the outlook of building a new China-Uzbekistan-Kyrgyzstan railroad link as an addition to the trans-Eurasia transportation corridor. The two also discussed security cooperation, with Uzbekistan also having had bouts of terrorist activity and with some concern over the uncertain situation in Afghanistan. Here Xi received the Order of Friendship from the Uzbek president. Both the Kazakh and Uzbek leaders also expressed strong support for China’s Global Security Initiative and Global Security Initiative.
During the SCO summit, President Xi held meetings with all the heads of the member states and observer countries delegations, except for Prime Minister Modi, who attended the meeting without having arranged a meeting with the Chinese president. The most watched-for meeting was that between President Xi and President Putin. This is their first face-to-face meeting since the onset of the Russian “special military operation.” In their discussion, the two said that they would continue to cooperate to defend each other’s “core interests.” Putin also indicated that the two would also talk of China’s “concerns” over the ongoing war in Ukraine. While China has been supportive of Russia, understanding the operations conducted by NATO in provoking the conflict, and refusing to accept the U.S. illegal use of unilateral sanctions against Russia, China has also been clear that they would like to see a negotiated end to the conflict as soon as possible. The refusal by the Ukrainian government (and their NATO backers) to negotiate has made that almost impossible.
China and Russia also held a three-way meeting with Mongolia to discuss the possible creation of a new oil and gas pipeline coming from Russia through Mongolia to China to increase the flow of gas and oil to China, which is prepared to purchase more gas and oil from Russia as the flow has of Russian oil and gas has been gradually cut off to Europe as a result of the Ukraine crisis in Ukraine. President Xi also held bilaterals with the heads of Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan,Tajikistan,Mongolia, Pakistan, and Iran. At this session of the SCO, the procedure for accepting Iran as a member will be concluded.
In his speech to the plenary meeting of the SCO, President Xi laid stress on the difficult situation facing the world today, calling on the SCO countries to be courageous in facing the present dangerous situation and defending the principles of the “Shanghai Spirit” the principles on which the SCO was founded 20 years ago, namely, mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality, consultation, respect for diverse civilizations, and seeking common development. “We stand for harmonious coexistence and mutual learning between different countries, nations and cultures, dialogue between civilizations and seeking common ground while shelving differences,” Xi said. “We are ready to establish partnership and develop win-win cooperation with other countries and international organizations that share our vision.”
He called on the members to enhance mutual support and guard against “color revolutions,” expand security cooperation, deepen practical cooperation, enhance people-to-people cultural exchanges, uphold multilateralism, and “reject the zero-sum” game and bloc politics. He also called on the members to safeguard the UN-centered international system and the international order based on international law.
He also called for the “implementation of the roadmap for SCO member states to expand shares of local currency settlement, better develop the system for cross-border payment and settlement in local currencies, work for the establishment of an SCO development bank, and thus speed up regional economic integration.”
“The Eurasian continent is home to us all,” Xi said. “Upholding its peace and development is the shared goal of countries both in our region and the world at large, and the SCO shoulders an important responsibility in meeting this goal. In recent years, an increasing number of countries have applied to join our SCO family. This fully demonstrates the power of SCO’s vision and the widely shared confidence in its future. By promoting the development and expansion of the SCO and giving full play to its positive impact, we will create strong momentum and new dynamism for ensuring durable peace and common prosperity of the Eurasian continent and the whole world.”
Xi also encouraged SCO to open its doors to other countries. At this SCO meeting, Iran became a full member of the SCO. Belarus will also launch the procedure for accession, and Bahrain, the Maldives, Kuwait, the U.A.E. and Myanmar have been added as dialogue partners. Xi also congratulated India on assuming the SCO presidency for the next year, promising China’s support for a successful SCO meeting the following year. While the mercurial Indian leader did attend the multilateral summit, he made it somewhat difficult to arrange a meeting with the Chinese leader, in spite of China’s attempt to arrange such a meeting. Finding itself heavily courted by Biden’s “alliance of democracies” gambit, the Indian leader is not yet prepared to take a step in either direction in spite of positive moves by both China and India to bring down tensions on the China-India border
Speaking to reporters following the meeting, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi underlined the importance of the event. “Against the overarching backdrop of turbulence and mounting risks and challenges in today’s world, President Xi Jinping’s visit to Central Asia has added vigor and vitality to the Silk Road connecting Asia and Europe and stabilizing factors to the regional and international landscape that are currently at a crossroads,” Wang said. “The visit has created more favorable international conditions for China’s new journey toward building a modern socialist country in all respects and fully demonstrated the extraordinary vision and sense of responsibility of a major country and a major political party that cares about the world and stays at the forefront of the trend of the times.”
Wang said that the summit had introduced a new momentum in the Shanghai Spirit and brought China’s relations with the relevant countries to a new level. “Through concerted efforts of President Xi Jinping and other participating leaders, the summit adopted over 40 outcome documents covering economy, finance, technology, culture, institution-building, external exchanges and so on,” Wang said. “Particularly, under the initiative of the Chinese side, heads of state of the SCO member states adopted four major statements on international energy and food security, tackling climate change, and keeping supply chains secure, stable and diversified. The Chinese side also announced that it is ready to establish a China-SCO base for training counter-terrorism personnel, host a forum on industrial and supply chains, set up a China-SCO Big Data Cooperation Center, and provide developing countries in need with emergency humanitarian assistance of grain and other supplies worth 1.5 billion yuan.”
“Regarding certain countries that are obsessed with geopolitical games and bloc confrontation,” Wang Yi said, “President Xi Jinping clearly pointed out that we should remain firm in safeguarding the UN-centered international system and the international order based on international law, practice the common values of humanity, uphold true multilateralism, jointly improve global governance, reject zero-sum game and bloc politics, and work together to ensure that the international order is more just and equitable.”
Xi’s visit to Central Asia and the successful SCO Summit was also underlined as a part of the process leading up to the 20th CPC Party Congress in October, where there will be major changes in the Chinese leadership and new initiatives introduced to meet the complex needs of a world in turmoil. Most of the leaders of the SCO countries, aware of the major discussions going on in China with regard to the tumultuous international situation, wished the Chinese president a successful 20th Party Congress. [wcj]