SCO: An overview of the past decade

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization is a regionally-based international organization established against the complex background of different levels of development, religious civilizations, national strengths and domestic institutions at the beginning of this century, when the Eurasian region was faced with new development and security challenges. The growth path of the SCO, on the one hand, indicates that this organization is a historic initiative. On the other hand, it suggests that things will never go smoothly for it.

Over the past decade, members of the SCO have addressed border issues, providing an important political and legal basis for countries to build mutual trust and stability. The organization has built up a rich variety of organizational frameworks and mechanisms, offering institutional structures for members, observer countries and dialogue partners to promote cooperation. The SCO has also promoted economic and security cooperation among its members, laying a solid foundation for the development of the organization. Over the years, by maintaining regional stability and security, this organization has caught the whole world’s attention.

During the past decade, the world has been experiencing considerable changes. First, the center of gravity in international politics and economics is rapidly shifting from the West to the East. Although the West remains the dominant factor in the entire international community, a diverse and pluralistic wave of international development is swiftly emerging. G20, BRIC countries and the SCO are prominent elements in this process.

Second, is that the frequency and intensity of international conflicts remain troubling, even though the Cold War has ended. Almost all wars, including the Kosovo war in 1999, the Afghanistan war in 2001, the Iraq war in 2003, the Russian-Georgian war in 2008, and the recent war in Libya, can be described as taking place on the fringes of the Eurasian continent, which is the heartland of the SCO, demonstrating that the SCO is needed to help maintain regional stability.

Third, the last decade has seen a series of non-traditional events and crises affecting the stability of the Eurasian region. These include the events of 9/11, the “color revolutions,” the natural gas conflict, the world financial crisis, the upheaval in the Middle East and North Africa, and so on. Within this context, international conduct over the past decade can be characterized as “crisis-reaction.” The fact that all of these events are closely related to the area where the SCO is located, from the perspective of anti-crisis, reflects the organization’s importance.

Currently, the SCO’s activities consist of the following:

First, the organization has played an important role in maintaining security, developing economy and enhancing political trust. In the future, therefore, the SCO’s development should continue to be comprehensive and include the above-mentioned aspects, rather than just emphasizing a single field.

Second, the organization has always highlighted multilateral activities as its goal; when multilateral cooperation is in need of a breakthrough, however, developing expansive bilateral relations to promote multilateral cooperation through a network of bilateral ties becomes the main focus of the SCO.

Third, the SCO already has a legal framework for expansion, which it can use as the basis for formal expansion. Any decision to admit an additional member necessitates a consensus of all its members. Currently, the prestige of the organization is further enhanced through improving its internal efficiency and implementing relevant resolutions. Through these means, the SCO could gradually achieve its aim to set up an “open regional organization.”

Feng Shaolei is Professor and Dean, School of Advanced International and Area Studies, East China Normal University (ECNU).

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