As the coronavirus pandemic redraws the world’s geopolitical map and countries grapple to keep up with the new challenges, Chinese President Xi Jinping has highlighted that the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) can be a major force for universal peace, security, and prosperity. The Chinese leader enunciated a four-point program to expand partnership, cooperation, and dialogue between the SCO member-states that will deepen the Shanghai Spirit of unity in the world.
Addressing the 20th meeting of the heads of state of the eight-member Eurasian grouping on November 10, President Xi stressed that “the SCO should play a more active role in international and regional affairs, and stay committed to building an open, inclusive, clean, and beautiful world that enjoys lasting peace, universal security, and common prosperity.” In addition to expanding its partnerships, it should also conduct extensive cooperation with observers, dialogue partners, the UN, as well as other international organizations, he said.
The virus has “accelerated shifts in the international landscape”, bringing “a period of turbulence and transformation”, the Chinese leader said in a prepared speech titled “Carrying forward the Shanghai Spirit and deepening solidarity and collaboration for a stronger community with a shared future.” The world now faces “a major test with choices to be made between multilateralism and unilateralism, openness and seclusion, cooperation and confrontation”, and “These are questions awaiting answers from the people of our time,” he said.
Mr Xi quoted the ancient Chinese saying that “men of insight see the trend, while men of wisdom ride it” to underline the four key tasks before the SCO which are fundamental to achieving peace, development, cooperation, and mutual benefit. He emphasized that “history has proven that good-neighborliness will prevail over a beggar-thy-neighbor approach, cooperation will replace zero-sum game, and multilateralism will win over unilateralism”.
President Xi believes that these tasks would help deepen solidarity and collaboration between the SCO member states; contribute more to the stability and development of the region; and take more steps toward building a community with a shared future for mankind.
Four Tasks for Future
As a first task, he said that the SCO should strengthen its joint response to COVID-19 which includes supporting each other’s efforts and the World Health Organization, oppose attempts to politicize the pandemic, and resist “political virus”. “We need to put the SCO’s health cooperation mechanisms into full use, and deepen exchanges and cooperation in epidemic monitoring, scientific research, and disease control and treatment,” he said.
He proposed setting up a communication hotline between the centers for disease control (CDCs) of the SCO countries for timely updates on cross-border transmission of diseases. He highlighted the important role of traditional medicines in the battle against the virus, and suggested that the SCO should continue to hold its forum on traditional medicine to deepen exchanges. China has joined the COVAX facility for vaccine development and will actively consider supplying the drugs to SCO members once they are ready, he added.
The second task is to safeguard security and stability for all. “Security and stability are the number one precondition for a country’s development, and thus concern the core interests of all countries. We need to act on the vision of a common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security, and address all forms of threats and challenges effectively,” he said.
SCO should support to countries that need help in safeguarding political and social stability, and firmly oppose foreign interference in the domestic affairs of the member members. “We need to deepen solidarity and mutual trust, and resolve disputes and differences through dialogue and consultation to cement the political foundation for SCO development,” the president said.
He also highlighted the threats from terrorists and separatists organizations, the proliferation of drugs, and online propagation of extremist ideology. The Chinese leader urged the member-states to join its global data security initiative that “aims to galvanize efforts to build a peaceful, secure, open, cooperative and orderly cyberspace”.
Third, he said, is to “deepen practical cooperation and build a community of development”. “True development is development for all and good development is sustainable,” he said. The SCO should be guided by a vision of innovation, coordination, openness for shared development and opportunities and green development to facilitate economic recovery, the General Secretary of the CPC Central Committee said. Furthermore, it needs to “forge greater synergy of the Belt and Road Initiative” between national and region-wide development cooperation initiatives such as the Eurasian Economic Union.
Besides, “We need to foster an open, fair, and nondiscriminatory business environment for each other’s companies, expand mutual investment, and seize opportunities from the new round of technological revolution to step up cooperation in digital economy, e-commerce, artificial intelligence, and smart cities. He informed that next year China will host an SCO forum on digital economy in Chongqing that will provide a platform for innovation cooperation.
The fourth task is to “nourish people-to-people amity and build a community of cultural exchanges”. “Each civilization is distinct and none is superior to others. We need to promote mutual learning between our civilizations and enhance good-neighborliness and friendship between our countries. This allows us to enhance public support for the SCO’s long-term development,” he added. He suggested developing platforms and communication tools to sensitize and promote different activities and achievements of the SCO among the masses.
Finally, “The world also needs China for prosperity” and it cannot be separated from that process. Therefore, “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,” President Xi said.
The conference also marked the end of the Russian presidency of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Tajikistan is the next rotational chair of the SCO which will mark its 20th anniversary next year.
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