Despite the pandemic, the SCO members must continue to strive to realize a close Eurasian economic partnership
As the Shanghai Cooperation Organization is about to celebrate its 20th anniversary, there is a shared understanding among its members that it has been entrusted with a new mission in the new era, and that as well as safeguarding regional security, it should promote trade and economic cooperation in the region.
Economic cooperation has been one of the important functions of the SCO since its founding, but until now it has taken a back seat to security cooperation.
However, the SCO member states have jointly established several cooperation mechanisms to promote economic cooperation. In particular, China and the SCO have partnerships such as China's SCO Committee on Good-Neighbourliness, Friendship and Cooperation; the China-SCO Economic and Trade Cooperation Demonstration Zone; the China-SCO Agricultural Technology Exchange and Training Demonstration Base; the China-SCO Judicial Exchange and Cooperation Training Center; and the China-SCO Legal Service Committee.
China has become the largest or second-largest trading partner of most SCO members, and the trade volume between China and other SCO members stood at around $250 billion in 2018 and 2019. Due to the spread of the novel coronavirus and the global economic recession it has caused, trade is expected to decline in 2020, but it will still be 25 times that of 2000, the year before the establishment of the SCO.
And China's investment in other SCO members totaled nearly $90 billion, in areas such as agriculture, manufacturing and infrastructure, among many other fields. The value of construction projects contracted by Chinese enterprises in other SCO countries has increased from less than $300 million in 2001 to nearly $20 billion.
The Chinese government has also provided concessional loans to other SCO member states of about $30 billion in total and launched a $5 billion China-Eurasian Economic Cooperation Fund and a 30 billion yuan ($4.6 billion) special lending facility within the SCO Interbank Consortium framework. The China Development Bank has lent more than $100 billion in total to other SCO members, which has greatly facilitated trade and investment between China and other SCO members.
In the new edition of the SCO's Multilateral Economic and Trade Cooperation Outlines for 2035, the SCO members emphasize further developing business collaboration and promoting mutually beneficial cooperation in trade, manufacturing, the digital economy, innovation, high technologies, food, transportation and energy security.
China is already working with the other SCO members in more fields, including trade and investment, banking and finance, transportation and logistics, industry, agriculture, energy, customs, innovation, information and communication technologies, spatial development, cross-regional coordination, tourism, ecology, education and other areas concerning common interests.
The SCO, however, also faces new challenges in its development.
First and foremost, the pandemic shows no sign of abating globally, with the situation in the United States and Europe continuing to worsen and many of the SCO members being greatly affected.
Second, since 2014, the US has been wielding the stick of unilateral "sanctions" and pursuing military containment.
Third, the pandemic has plunged the global economy into a deep recession, causing high unemployment and inflation in many countries and aggravating social confrontation and conflicts, to which SCO member states have not been immune.
Despite the international political and economic turmoil, SCO member states, observers and dialogue partners must join hands in rising to the challenges, maintain peace, stability and growth in the region, strengthen economic cooperation, and promote common economic prosperity, to fulfill the new SCO mission of a close and profound Eurasian economic partnership.
In taking the lead to build a community with a shared future, the SCO members must work together and embrace the Shanghai Spirit, which features mutual trust, mutual respect, equality, respect for diverse civilizations and pursuit of shared development. To this end, the SCO will serve as an important platform for strategic cooperation between the SCO members and other countries participating in the Belt and Road Initiative. Russia has proposed a Greater Eurasian Partnership within the SCO framework, based on synergies between the Eurasian Economic Union and the Belt and Road Initiative, with the aim of strengthening open, mutually beneficial cooperation on an equal footing and realizing a Eurasian community with a shared future. Such a community will translate into reality the Eurasian Economic Partnership and even the Eurasian Comprehensive Partnership advocated in the China-Russian Joint Statement.
Under the SCO framework, the comprehensive strategic partnership for cooperation between China and Russia for a new era will play a key role, and the Belt and Road Initiative and the Eurasian Economic Union will work together for infrastructure connectivity by linking six major overland economic corridors and two maritime economic pathways around Eurasia while connecting intangible infrastructure by improving markets, promoting trade and investment facilitation and liberalization, and building the SCO Free Trade Zone.
The Belt and Road Initiative has linked the SCO with the Eurasian Economic Union, the Economic Cooperation Organization, the European Union, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership and economic integration processes and initiatives in Eurasia, thus creating a common economic sphere for Eurasia.
The author is the director of the Eurasia Institute of China-SCO International Judicial Exchange and Cooperation Training Center Research Institute at Shanghai University of Political Science and Law. The author contributed this article to China Watch, a think tank powered by China Daily. The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.
The opinions expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of China Daily and China Daily website.
If you have a specific expertise and would like to contribute to China Daily, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and email@example.com.