Immense Prospects for the Shanghai Cooperation Organization
Keynote Speech by Cheng Guoping, Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs At the Third Lanting Forum
8 June 2011
Good afternoon! Welcome to the Lanting Forum. I am delighted to have this opportunity to exchange views with you on the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, or the SCO.
In one week's time, the summit to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Organization will be held in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan. It will be a historic event that connects the past and future development of the SCO. It will also be a major stage for China's diplomatic activities in this year. Taking the summit as an important opportunity to deepen cooperation with all other SCO member states, China is sparing no efforts in making the final preparations for President Hu Jintao's participation.
For the SCO, apart from grand celebration activities, we should buckle down, review the journey of the past ten years and ask ourselves the following questions. Have the purposes and tasks identified at the inception of the organization been fulfilled? What difficulties and challenges the SCO has encountered in the course of its development? Where should it go from here?
As the summit approaches, we are holding the Lanting Forum today with a focus on the SCO to broaden our horizon and pool wisdom at this historic moment. We hope to explore with you the development of the Organization and ways for China to better participate in and promote the SCO cooperation in various fields.
Today we have invited some veteran diplomats, renowned scholars, diplomatic envoys and friends from the media. I thank all of you for attending the forum despite your busy schedules. Some of you have personally engaged in the establishment and development of the SCO. Some have insightful observations on many related issues after following and studying this Organization for years. I hope today we can have candid and deep-going exchanges. By way of introduction, I wish to share with you my observations and views to kick off a wonderful discussion.
Ten years ago, the SCO was founded and institutional building just begun. Now it has turned into a mature and highly efficient organization and made remarkable achievements in various areas.
On the political front, mutual trust among member states is constantly increasing. Even before the founding of the SCO, members of the "Shanghai Five", the predecessor of the SCO, had laid a solid foundation of political mutual trust in the process of addressing the boundary questions and enhancing confidence in the military field in border areas, thus paving the way for people in the region to overcome Cold War legacy and conduct friendly cooperation. Since the SCO was founded, member states have firmly supported each other on issues concerning such core interests as independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity. They have coordinated closely and effectively safeguarded their common interests on international and regional affairs. The Treaty on Long-term Good-Neighborliness, Friendship and Cooperation concluded in August 2007 has codified the common aspiration of the people of the member states to carry forward friendship and peace from generation to generation and served as an important safeguard for enduring peace in the region.
As for organic development, smooth progress has been made in institutional building. The SCO has developed a fairly full-fledged institutional system and operational mechanisms, including a multi-tiered, wide-ranging meeting mechanism comprised of the heads of state meeting, heads of government meeting, security council secretaries meeting, heads of ministries and agencies meeting and national coordinators meeting, and two permanent agencies, namely, the Secretariat and the Regional Counter-Terrorism Structure. It has all the necessary elements and legal basis for a high-level international organization and enjoys a sound basis for future development.
On the security front, regional peace and stability have been effectively safeguarded. The SCO member states singed the Shanghai Convention on Combating Terrorism, Separatism and Extremism at the very first SCO summit, which clearly identifies the fight against the "three forces" as the major task of the SCO. Since then, the member states have signed a number of other security cooperation documents, such as the SCO Convention Against Terrorism, the Anti-drugs Cooperation Agreement and the Agreement on Joint Fight Against Crimes. Thus the SCO cooperation has been gradually expanded and rapidly enriched in wider areas including strategic security, defense security, law enforcement security, information security, counter-narcotics, anti-money laundering and fight against transnational organized crimes. Member states have conducted bilateral and multilateral counter-terrorism exercises on a regular basis, collaborated on providing security for major international events, and played a huge role in upholding regional peace and stability.
On the economic front, progress has been made in regional cooperation. The SCO member states signed the Program of Multilateral Trade and Economic Cooperation in September 2003 to identify development goals, formulate specific measures and vigorously tap cooperation potential. All parties have actively engaged in practical cooperation in the fields of economy, trade, finance, energy, transportation, telecommunications and agriculture, worked together to tackle the financial crisis and meet the challenges brought by globalization, and made headway in trade and investment facilitation and projects to enhance interconnectivity. The Chinese side has pledged a total of over US$12 billion concessional loans to other member states, which has greatly boosted bilateral and multilateral practical cooperation among member states. Trade between China and other SCO member states has soared from US$12.1 billion to nearly US$90 billion in the past ten years, representing a 7-fold increase. Such trade growth is higher than that of China's total foreign trade during the same period. Meanwhile, SCO member states have become one of the most important and prioritized regions for China's outbound investment.
On the cultural front, the traditional friendships between member states have gone from strength to strength. With much emphasis on cultural cooperation and people-to-people exchanges, the SCO has carried forward and advanced the traditional friendships between member states, thus consolidating the popular support for its development. The SCO member states have constantly promoted their cooperation in culture, education, health, science, technology, disaster relief, sports, tourism and other fields, and signed a series of cooperation documents. The SCO University has been launched, becoming a new platform for SCO cooperation in education. People-to-people exchanges among member states have been closer. The concept that the people in this region should be "good neighbors, good partners and good friends" has been widely accepted.
In external relations, the international standing and influence of the Organization has kept rising. The purposes and principles of the SCO have been widely endorsed by the international community. More and more countries and international organizations have shown desire to enter into cooperative relations with the SCO. The Organization now has four observers and two dialogue partners. It has established cooperative relations and expanded the scope of cooperation with regional and international organizations such as the United Nations, the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), and ASEAN. The SCO has taken an active part in addressing the issue of Afghanistan, and made its own contribution to an accelerated process of peace and reconstruction in Afghanistan. The presidents of Turkmenistan and Afghanistan attended the SCO summits several times upon invitation, which bespeaks SCO's appeal to different types of countries in this region. Thanks to its own efforts, the SCO has been regarded by the UN as an essential regional organization for addressing security in the region in all its dimensions.
Within a short span of ten years, the SCO has developed from an emerging regional organization for cooperation into a constructive force for regional peace, stability and development. The most important reason is that it takes the "Shanghai Spirit", featuring mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality, consultation, respect for diversified civilizations and pursuit of common development as the basic principle for cooperation. The development path and cooperation approach it has chosen serve the common interests of all member states, and accord with the general trend for peace, development and cooperation. The message proven by the development of the SCO is clear: the history will not end and different civilizations can converge.
In my view, the ten years' development of the SCO has given us the following inspirations.
--Good-neighborly friendship is the basis. The SCO stands for mutual support of member states for each others' principled positions and efforts for national independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity, mutual respect for each others' rights to independently choose political, economic, social and cultural development paths suited to their national conditions, non-interference in each others' internal affairs and no use or threat of force. We in the SCO have strictly adhered to the democratic principle of equality among all countries, big or small, treated each other with sincerity, and made decisions on all SCO matters on the basis of consensus, thus effectively safeguarding the common interests of all the member states.
--Unity and mutual assistance is the guarantee. In light of the changing international and regional landscapes as well as various external impact on regional peace and stability, SCO member states have fought side by side against terrorism, separatism and extremism to uphold tranquility and stability in the region. We have worked hand in hand in tackling the international financial crisis to tide over the difficulties. We have collaborated closely and spoken in one voice on international and regional affairs. We have held the conviction that strength comes from unity and development of one country comes from the cooperation between us all. In face of difficulties and challenges, we have weathered the storm together and shared weal and woe. This is our valuable asset, the ability to create an enabling environment for development through collective strengths.
--Mutual benefit and win-win progress is the key. The SCO aims at common development and common prosperity through win-win cooperation. In response to the changing situation and the needs of each member state, the Organization has made sustained efforts to expand and enrich cooperation in order to fully realize cooperation potential and advance common interests. The fundamental purpose is to ensure that the people of SCO member states can enjoy continued benefits from such cooperation so as to solidify economic and social foundations for closer cooperation and generate an inexhaustible driving force for the long-term development of the Organization.
--Peaceful development is the banner. The SCO follows a new security concept featuring mutual trust, mutual benefit, mutual respect and consultation on an equal footing. It upholds the principles of openness, inclusiveness, transparency and non-targeting at any third party. It works to vigorously develop exchanges and cooperation with other parties, play a constructive role in international and regional affairs, build a harmonious region of enduring peace and common prosperity, and promote a more just and equitable international order.
The success story of the SCO in its 10-year development has given us more confidence to say that the choice we made 10 years ago to set up such an organization is correct, the path we have charted for its development is viable and the purposes pursued by this organization are right. The SCO has now become an indispensable and constructive force in Eurasia and a regional cooperation organization that its member states can trust and count on. This choice, this path, this spirit and this model should be carried forward in a better way.
That said, we must be keenly aware that today's international and regional situations are much more complex and fluid than 10 years ago, in which the SCO faces a more arduous task of consolidating regional security and promoting common development. Standing at a new historical starting point, we need to carry forward and build on the fine traditions and valuable experience of the past decade, and chart the right course of the development of the SCO in the next 10 years to ensure that such cooperation can bring the maximum benefit to countries in the region.
In our view, efforts should be made in the following aspects to deepen cooperation and strengthen capacity building of the SCO in the next 10 years.
First, continue to strengthen political mutual trust and enhance the ability to meet various challenges. The SCO needs to step up consultation and communication on issues concerning the core interests of member states, coordinate and formulate common positions on major international political, security, economic and financial issues, and become more capable and efficient in preventing and managing crises. SCO cooperation should be carried out on the basis of consensus and in a flexible and pragmatic manner. More emphasis should be placed on concrete outcomes and fulfillment of various goals and tasks.
Second, continue to deepen security cooperation and effectively strengthen the ability to resist real threats. Maintaining peace, security and stability in the region is the top priority and shared concern of all SCO member states. The Organization needs to grab hold of the core issues and key factors affecting regional security and put in place a full- fledged system for security cooperation. It should spare no efforts in fighting against terrorism, separatism and extremism, drug trafficking and other transnational crimes and safeguarding global information security. It should hold joint counter-terrorism exercises regularly, expand the cooperation mechanism for security assurance and take concrete measures to ensure the security of multilateral transport, energy, telecommunications infrastructure and means of transportation.
Third, continue to advance practical cooperation and raise the capability for sustainable development in all aspects. The SCO should continue increasing inter-connectivity of transport, energy, telecommunications and other infrastructure in the region and advancing free trade arrangements. It should step up macroeconomic monitoring, expand the use of local currencies in trade settlement, and establish special accounts and development banks. It should put in place cooperation mechanisms for energy and food security, spur innovation in science and technology and strengthen cooperation in the non-resources sectors and areas essential to people's well-being. It should work harder to find driving forces for addressing future crises and promoting sustainable development.
Fourth, continue to expand people-to-people and cultural exchanges to cement and carry forward traditional friendship to future generations. The SCO should enrich the lives of the people in this region by developing networks of education and medical services, intensifying cultural and youth exchanges and conducting cooperation in tourism and sports. China supports the establishment of an SCO early-warning and disaster relief center to strengthen disaster rescue and relief capabilities. Last year, 50 injured Kyrgyz children received traditional Chinese therapy for rehabilitation in Sanya, Hainan Province, and the results were satisfactory. It is important for the SCO to set up a long-term public health demonstration project of using traditional medicine for rehabilitation and treatment of patients, especially children patients.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
As a founding member of the SCO, China has always placed high importance on and taken an active part in the development of the Organization. Over the past 10 years, China has increased its input in SCO political, economic and cultural cooperation and people-to-people exchanges and worked actively to improve its institutions. It has provided several big credit supports for the implementation of multilateral transport, energy, telecommunications network projects and the efforts against the international financial crisis, and helped to train various professionals of other SCO member states, making real contribution to the common development of all member states. China's policy towards the SCO is a strategic choice made in light of the shared interests of all member states and will not change because of any single event at a particular time. China expects all parties to make new and historic decisions at the upcoming summit. We believe that this summit will be a full success with concerted efforts of all member states.
After the Astana Summit in June, China will take on the rotating Chairmanship of the SCO. In the following year, we will stay in close communication with all other member states to carefully design the plan for the year and meticulously prepare for and organize major events. We will put forward ideas and initiatives on SCO cooperation in various fields and vigorously promote practical cooperation between member states. By so doing, we hope to kick off a good start for the development of the Organization in the next 10 years.
We hope that today's Lanting Forum will benefit from your wisdom and strength, sum up past experience and on that basis draw a blueprint for SCO's future development. I wish to once again thank all the diplomatic envoys, experts, scholars, and representatives from various sectors for attending today's event. The Foreign Ministry will keep in close contact and communication with you to listen to your valuable suggestions, which, we believe, will help the SCO grow more robustly and conduct its cooperation more fruitfully.
We are confident that with concerted efforts of all parties, the SCO will hold out immense prospects of development.