Xi clarifies SCO direction, outlines future goals

By Li Ruohan

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) will expand international interactions and cooperation as nations face common threats and challenges, Chinese President Xi Jinping said Sunday.

SCO members will uphold the authority and efficacy of WTO rules, strengthen an open, inclusive, transparent, non-discriminatory and rules-based multilateral trading system, and oppose trade protectionism of any form, said Xi.

Xi made the remarks at a joint press conference of the 18th SCO summit in Qingdao, a coastal city in East China’s Shandong Province.

Several documents were issued during the summit, including the Qingdao Declaration of the Council of Heads of Member States of the SCO, and the Joint Statement of the Heads of Member States of the SCO on Promoting Trade Facilitation.

Pointing out that unilateralism, trade protectionism and backlash against globalization are taking new forms, Xi said the pursuit of cooperation for mutual benefit represents a surging trend when countries’ interests and future are interconnected.

Xi’s remarks have renewed the Shanghai Spirit as the bloc enters a new phase after 17 years of development, Deng Hao, secretary general of the China Center for SCO Studies, told the Global Times on Sunday.

“The president has clarified the future of the bloc with specific undertakings outlined in security, economics, people-to-people exchanges and other sectors. The summit also helped build confidence among member states in a world full of challenges and uncertainties,” said Deng.

New beginning, greater mission

Though SCO is not the only multilateral platform that stresses respect for diversity and joint development, it is the best practitioner of uplifting spirits, Pan Guang, a research fellow at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Sunday.

During the summit, China announced the future establishment of a 30-billion-yuan ($4.7 billion) special lending facility within the framework of the Inter-Bank Consortium of the SCO.

“The summit is also a great chance to enhance multilateral cooperation among Belt and Road initiative member nations and organizations,” said Pan.

In the first quarter of 2018, trade between China and other SCO members jumped 20.7 percent year-on-year.

China’s combined investment in other SCO member countries reached $84 billion by the first quarter of 2018, and many large energy, mining and industrial projects are progressing smoothly, the Xinhua News Agency reported on Sunday.

The organization will also promote counter-terrorism intelligence exchanges and joint actions, strengthen legal foundation and capacity building, effectively combat terrorism, separatism, extremism, drug trafficking, transnational organized crime and cyber crime, and leverage the role of the SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group, Xi added.

Regional security is crucial for the smooth implementation of the Belt and Road initiative and other strategies, while people-to-people exchanges, especially among younger generations, is the foundation for the bloc’s future vitality, said Pan.

As SCO’s influence grows beyond the member states, other countries that have expressed interest in joining the organization, such as Syria and Israel, could also join future dialogues in flexible manners, such as being guest countries in summits, said Pan.

The bloc is now responsible for a grander mission of promoting a fair and just global order, Deng noted.

This is the fourth time the summit has been held in China, a founding member and the cradle of the bloc.

The event attracted over 400 foreign and domestic reporters. Among the over 300 mostly university student volunteers at the media center of the summit, many have expressed a feeling of pride for the organization.

“I have never had such a strong feeling that China’s soft power is winning the country more and more influence, and I feel so proud,” Luan Kaili, a junior at Qingdao University and a volunteer of the summit, told the Global Times on Sunday.

Enthusiasm is also easily found on Chinese social media, as #SCOsummit has attracted over 380 million page views as of press time.

Source: People’s Daily/Global Times