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SCO as Chinese Version of Regional Alliance Zhou Dong Chen, Wang Li.

Since 2001 when the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) was founded by six states (China, Russia, Kazakstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan), it has come of age in terms of the new type of the security cooperation in Eurasia. At the moment, the SCO is the largest regional security organization in the world, accounting for nearly half of the global population and over 1/5 of global GDP.

In addition, it has developed into a vigorous platform with upholding the Shanghai Spirit based on inclusiveness and common development. It is noted that the SCO has asserted itself as a unique, influential and growing regional organization whose potential has since expanded remarkably following the accession of India and Pakistan in 2017.In 2018, Chinese President Xi Jinping chaired the Meeting of the Council of Heads of State of the SCO Member States in Qingdao, where he called on all the member states firmly committed to the goals and principles of the SCO Charter and, guided by the Shanghai Spirit, to continue addressing the tasks outlined in the SCO Development Strategy until 2025.

Russian President Putin has also advocated the settlement of crises in Afghanistan, Syria, the Iranian nuclear issue and the Korean Peninsula, as well as other regional conflicts within the framework of generally accepted norms and principles of international law. Due to this, it is proper to take the SCO as a new-typed regional alliance, which is different from the traditional ones.In foreign affairs, the forces that bring states together and drive them apart will affect the security of individual states by determining both how large a threat they face and how much benefits they can expect.

Similarly, the factors that determine how states choose alliance or strategic partners will shape the evolution of the international system as a whole. The SCO is no exception. Yet, the SCO is designed not to follow the model like the NATO although the interest of each member state and the regional stability could be better secured through a coordinated collective security among themselves considering non-conventional threats, such as terrorism and the regional chaos caused by the United States military presence in the region since the Persian Gulf war over the past decade.

Given this, the SCO declares its desire for common development and pursues its external policy in accordance with the principles of non-alignment, non-targeting any third country. It has also aimed to achieve the increasingly vital role in the regional security and prosperity. As a matter of fact, Stephen Walt defined that "an alliance is formal or informal arrangement for security cooperation between two or more sovereign states." Due to this, a larger regional or even global organization of economic and political affairs is necessary and even more efficient than any individual state. In light of this reason, the origins of the SCO started from its intention to strengthen the practical interaction in the political, security; and has then expanded into all areas of trade, investment, transport, energy, agriculture, as well as cultural and humanitarian ties.

To that end, A Plan of Action for 2018-22 was even drawn with a view to implementing the Treaty on Long-Term Neighborliness, Friendship and Cooperation among all the members.For sure, like the traditional alliances, the circumstances in which the SCO was founded has affected the decisions to deter or defeat the looming threats. Yet, it is unlike the traditional ones, the SCO has reiterated its actions following the tenets of non-alignment, non-targeting any third country. As argued in an SCO joint statement issued at the close of the meeting in 2018, they called for the work of consolidating the multilateral trade system and fight against unilateralism and trade protectionism in any form.

It was another determined and unanimous pledge from the SCO member states to protect multilateralism and free trade. Particularly countries of Central Asia, which are landlocked, also favorably serve the transport route linking China to Europe and the Middle East. This, in turn, allowed Central Asian states to organize the supply of their goods to the external market, to find new trading partners and growth points, and to adopt new technologies from other advanced parties including China.

Economically and financially, China is the lead state of the SCO and has presented its key proposal of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which is regarded as the basic path to realize common wealth. Yet, essentially the SCO has no supranational formats of the mechanisms for overcoming potential issues and risks in economic, ecological and educational spheres, despite that it has opened up broad opportunities for the practical application of new methods and forms of economic cooperation. For the sake of this, the SCO not only continues to sublimate the Shanghai Spirit, but also fits well into the BRI framework which aims to facilitate the common development process of the region en bloc, for example, improving the cross-border transport infrastructure, reducing trade barriers and increasing trade, and attracting investment.

Yet, taking the various theories on alliances, it is not difficult to discover the arguments of the SCO, both its progress and its potential challenges. For example, neoliberal scholars assumed that the SCO as a regional security organization was formed immediately after the collapse the Soviet Union and at a time when common border and territorial issues started emerging between the ex-Soviet countries on one hand and China on the other with the purpose of helping to deal with such issues.

Although cooperation between states is likely to be fragile, particularly where enforcement procedures are weak, in an environment of growing regional and global integration, states can often discover with or without the encouragement of a coincidence of strategic and economic interests which can be turned into a formalized agreement determining the rules of conduct.According to what Randall Schweller has argued, the role of international institutions-whether global or regional-matter, this is why states invest in them, and how they influence decision makers' choices in world politics. Furthermore, John Mearsheime held that international organizations stipulate the ways in which states should cooperate and compete with one another. By doing so, they can increase and aid support among member states under which they can cooperate to achieve its objectives.

The SCO as a Eurasian organization belongs to this sort. Yet, it has clearly dedicated to the sensitive or controversial issues such as terrorism, separatism and extremism which are essentially common to all the member states including China and Russia.How about relations between China and Russia, which are the buttress of the SCO For sure, realist scholars have deep doubt on the long-term cooperation between the two land powers which would compete with each other in the whole region involving the SCO. In addition, China and Russia are also viewed as opponents or saboteurs of the current world order.

However, a sound evidence is that China and Russia insist on a substantial reduction of the United States posing the perceived r potential threats to their core interests, but the two powers are equally cautious to prevent the SCO from being a new version of the Warsaw Pact designed to counterbalance NATO headed by the UnitedStates.

In principle, the SCO aims to provide an unstable world with a new model that could promote states to curb racial, cultural, and other conflicts and to promote peace, stability and prosperity, as defined in the SCO charter. More concretely, China has accepted the current U.S. military hegemony of East Asia and the rules and regulations for world trade drafted y Washington and its allies. Similarly, Russia has acquired in the enlargement of the European Union and somehow even permanent U.S./ NATO presence on its borders. It seems both Beijing and Moscow have been aware of this reality by their heart.

At the same time, it is self-evident that Washington's aggressiveness has forced Beijing and Moscow to be destined to work closely in order to preserve their overall strategic ties to a higher level and to provide the driving force for respective national prosperity, regional stability and global peace and justice.

In a long run, the U.S. might be prone to hold, as Stephen Walt argued, that it is China, not Russia, will be the real competitor globally to the United States, if bipolarity has to return. Despite this, the SCO will continue to play the vital role regionally rather than globally, and China's entente with Russia is the key. To that end, all the SCO member states would further cooperate, jointly promote the Belt and Road Initiative and steadily enhance planning and strategic coordination. As President Xi insisted that "we should start from what we are able to do and what is agreed on."

In a word, the SCO will continue moving on in light of the spirit of building an innovative, invigorated, interconnected and inclusive world order.The writer Zhou Dongchen, PhD, lecturer of modern world history, Qufu Normal University; and Prof. Wang Li, PhD, professor of international relations, SIPA, Jilin University.
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Publication:The Diplomatic Insight
Geographic Code:4EXRU
Date:Jun 30, 2019
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