The SCO: A regional organization which encourages cooperation among equals

By Timothy Lobban
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, June 11, 2018
Adjust font size:

Chinese President Xi Jinping (6th R, front) poses for a group photo with other leaders and guests ahead of the 18th Meeting of the Council of Heads of Member States of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in Qingdao, east China's Shandong Province, June 10, 2018. Xi chaired the meeting and delivered a speech. (Xinhua/Gao Jie)

While the organization itself is barely two decades old, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) has come to its own and managed to make significant progress in a number of areas, much to the benefit of all its member states and the world at large.

Founded in 2001, the SCO was formed in response to the expansion of the "Shanghai Five." The "Shanghai Five" grouping was created in 1996, and consisted of China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan, with its main objective at the time being focused on peacefully addressing and solving border disputes. Since then, what was originally known as the "Shanghai Five" has gone on to evolve into the SCO, an organization dedicated to promoting peace, stability and development of the Asian continent through cooperation, amongst its eight-member states, six dialogue partners and four observer states.   

Interestingly, as the SCO continues to blossom in size, influence and stature (SCO member states currently constitute 60 percent of Eurasia's landmass, almost half of the world's population and 20 percent of global GDP), it has also gone on to illustrate China's style of leadership in an international context -- which is one that is geared towards fostering cooperation among equals. Indeed, nothing embodies how China seeks to engage with other countries more than the essence of the Shanghai Spirit. As one of the SCO's founding tenets, it highlights how the affairs of the organization should be dealt with in a way which emphasizes mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality, consultation, respect for diverse civilizations and the pursuit of the common development of all parties involved. 

Not only has the SCO served as a platform for an alternative approach to leadership on a global or regional scale, the successes of the organization help underpin the merits of this approach too. What started out as a five-member organization dedicated to border resolution has now come to represent something much bigger and more symbolic. Indeed, according to a report released by the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China, the case for this is made particularly well in the areas of politics, economics, security and people-to-people exchanges. 

The benefits of the SCO have been realized in a number of ways. Take education for instance, in 2016, China committed to providing annual scholarships for 20,000 students from SCO member states from 2016 to 2021. The SCO has also developed the University of Shanghai Cooperation Organization or University SCO, which encourages cultural and academic exchanges between the youth of almost 80 colleges, spread across five SCO member states and one observer state. By doing this, the SCO is showing how it strives to equip the SCO leaders of tomorrow with the tools needed to further unlock and better realize the region's potential for economic development and closer integration on multiple fronts.

Another benefit of the SCO can be found in its Anti-Terrorism Center. Based in Tashkent (the capital of Uzbekistan), it opened in January 2014 and is part of a joint effort by the SCO's members to fight what they view as the three evil forces in terrorism, extremism and separatism. The pledges made go beyond words though, since its inception, the center has helped prevent more than 600 terrorist related crimes, as well as arrest more than 2,000 members of international terrorist organizations --  doing its bit to help keep the overall region, and world safer.

Furthermore, other long-lasting benefits which have come as a result of the creation of the SCO include how the organization, in its own way, has contributed to laying down the groundwork for the Belt and Road Initiative. The SCO is the first of its kind to encompass nations of such cultural, social and linguistic diversity, with it arguably being of no coincidence that all of the group's member states, dialogue partners and observer states are participants of the Belt and Road Initiative at present. Perhaps it was the SCO and its Shanghai Spirit which helped warm the different partners up to cooperating with China in other avenues. The SCO also presents onlookers with the rare scene of having nations which typically don't always see eye to eye on different issues, such as China and India, and India and Pakistan sharing a common platform and collectively tackling different issues concerning them all.

The author, Timothy Lobban BA (Cantab), currently lives in Beijing where he freelances as the lead editor at and as a columnist for China Matters. He also does a podcast called 'Two Tims Talking Trash,' which focuses on politics, economics and popular culture in his spare time.

Opinion articles reflect the views of their authors, not necessarily those of

Follow on Twitter and Facebook to join the conversation.
ChinaNews App Download
Print E-mail Bookmark and Share

Go to Forum >>0 Comment(s)

No comments.

Add your comments...

  • User Name Required
  • Your Comment
  • Enter the words you see:   
    Racist, abusive and off-topic comments may be removed by the moderator.
Send your storiesGet more from