Zhejiang University School of Public
Affairs

International Affairs and Global
Governance

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Submitted by: Sanjar Khalturaev
Student ID: 21722199

Shanghai cooperation organization and cooperation in
Central Asia

Introduction

Collapse of the Soviet Union has opened a new era in the world politics. Rigid, static and
bipolar structure of Cold War left its seat to chaotic, slippery and more complicated unipolar world
order. Security alliances of the blocs of the Cold War do not exist anymore, permanent ally-enemy
notions collapsed and every single state have started a competition in order to maximize their own
interests. Meanings of terms that have significant importance in international relations have
changed dramatically in post-Cold-War era. Security is the first of them; it has been transformed
to something more complex and multi-dimensional from solely military level. During Cold War,
states only perceived threat from other states, but in the post-Cold-War era, number of threats has
increased and their effects on stability and security of states deepened. Although military security
is still important, it has lost its primary position in security understandings of the states; new threats
like energy, separatism, radical movements, migration, drug and human trafficking, environmental
problems have begun to occupy higher places in security threat lists of states. Role of economy in
world politics increased significantly and it has become the key determinant in the policies of states.
Liberalism and free market economy spread to whole world and privatization has become a
fashionable phenomenon especially in post-communist states.1 When it comes to the fore that
Central Asia is one of the most feasible and profitable sources for China, political conditions of
the region and transfer security also China pays great attention to energy rich regions of the world
and it uses every chance to infiltrate into these regions through economical manners. When all of
these above facts are examined, it comes to know that “Shanghai Cooperation Organization” is
one of the main sources to tied China with Central Asian countries.

1 Serge Schemann, End of the Soviet Union; The Soviet State, Born of a Dream, Dies. In: The New York Times. Link:
http://www.nytimes.com/1991/12/26/world/end-of-the-soviet-union-the-soviet-state-born-of-a-dream-dies.html?pagewanted=all, accessed:
03.01.2018.

Shanghai Cooperation Organization

“Shanghai Five” which was found in 1996 with involvement of China, Russia, Kazakhstan,
Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan process which was primarily founded for security necessities of
members. Later on, in 2001 “Shanghai Five” was transformed to “Shanghai Cooperation
Organization”. SCO which was founded with participation of Russia, China, Kazakhstan,
Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan in 2001.2

Members

SCO currently has 8 members; China, Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan Uzbekistan and
India with Pakistan which has joined on June 9th of 2017 in Astana Kazakhstan. Consequently,
members established “observer membership” in order to hold strategically important states in the
periphery of the organization and prepare them for integration with the organization. SCO observer
members have right to attend to the summits but they do not have right to vote. The countries-
observers in the SCO at the moment are Afghanistan, Belarus, Iran and Mongolia. The partner
countries are Azerbaijan, Armenia, Cambodia, Nepal, Turkey and Sri Lanka. It can be said that
although members have some common causes and targets, reasons for creating and joining to the
organization and expectations from the organization varies from member to member. SCO also
has not finished its legal basis for enlargement and members have disagreements on the possible
members of the organization and deepening the organization instead of enlargement. Some
members claim that new members will bring their own problems to the organization and cause
extra burden in to the SCO. However, on the contrary, some say that new members can bring new
chances for SCO especially in terms of energy and transportation.3 Enlargement supporters claim
that observer states can make investments in the rural areas of the Central Asia in the level of
companies and states. Through this, they can make great contributions to economical development
and cooperation. Although members signed a moratorium on enlargement in 2006, it can be seen
that, there is lack of agreement on the enlargement issue. While China and Uzbekistan support
enlargement, other members object enlargement process. 4

2 ??????????? ??????????? ?????????????? (???), ??? ???, teb-consulting, Link: http://teb-consulting.ru/post-9523 Accessed: 04.01.2018
3 Vladimir Portyakov, “The Shanghai Cooperation Organization: Achievements, Problems, Prospects”, Far Eastern Affairs, (2017)
4 G. Chufrin, “The SCO: Changing Priorities,” International Affairs

Source: http://teb-consulting.ru/post-9523

The head of the organization is the Council of Heads of State. They make decisions within the
framework of the work of the community. Meetings take place at summits held annually in one of
the cities of member countries. The location of the meeting goes by the order of the Russian
alphabet. The main objectives of the SCO include: strengthening mutual trust and good-
neighborliness among the participating countries; assistance in their effective cooperation in the
political, trade-economic, scientific-technical and cultural fields, as well as in the sphere of
education, energy, transport, tourism, environmental protection and others; joint provision and
maintenance of peace, security and stability in the region; promotion to the creation of a democratic,
just and rational new international political and economic order.5 SCO has become active in three
main fields in Eurasia region; political, economic and security.

5 ?????? ??????????, ??????????? ??????????? ?????????????? (???), ?????? ??? ? ??????, In: ??? ???????
Link: https://ria.ru/spravka/20170608/1495914523.html, Accessed 03.01.2018

Source: https://www.sb.by/

At current Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) completed its institutional structure and
have arose as an important regional organization that occupies nearly 34 million 314 thousand
square kilometers, approximately four fifth of Eurasian landmass and have 2.9 billion population
which constitutes half of the entire world population. Organization hosts 4 nuclear forces, Russia,
China, India and Pakistan. Their massive military force and permanent membership to United
Nations Security Council. Oil reserves of SCO countries (including observer member Iran)
constitutes 20% of world’s total reserves.6 Although SCO is larger than NATO and European
Union in terms of population, land size and natural sources and has important advantages in terms
of military, political force and economical development. In addition, the SCO is also trying to
closely cooperate with other international organizations (the UN, ASEAN, the CIS and others).
Their representatives regularly receive official invitations to participate in the SCO summits. 7

6 Nozimahon Sayfiddinova “Shanghai Cooperation Organization and Dynamics of Economic Integration in The Far East” International Journal
of Engineering Inventions (2017) Link: http://www.ijeijournal.com/papers/Vol.6-Iss.6/I06065863.pdf Accessed 03.01.2018

7 ??????????? ??????????? ?????????????? (???), ??? ???, teb-consulting, Link: http://teb-consulting.ru/post-9523 Accessed: 04.01.2018

Challenges

In economic terms energy constitutes the main basis of cooperation. China needs energy to feed
its giant economy, on the other hand energy rich members of the SCO such as Russia, Kazakhstan
and to some extent Uzbekistan needs to sell their energy. Consequently SCO creates the forum for
energy rich and energy demanding states. On the other hand, its increasing dialogue within SCO,
trade volume between members is increasing gradually although there are still some problems.
Besides energy issue, Central Asia constitutes the western gate of China in the historical “Silk
Road” to economically developed Western markets. As an economy oriented state, China needs to
sell commodities that it has manufactured and developing countries of Central Asia, just in the
other side of the border, constitutes great market for them. Central Asia is located in the middle of
two important economically important regions; China and Europe. Therefore, Central Asia is the
region that bounds China to European markets. As it can be seen Central Asia is vital for China in
terms of increasing its commercial ties both with Europe and newly independent states in the
region. 8 Central Asia is not only important for Beijing because of energy and commerce but also
this region is important in terms of territorial integrity of China. Separatist movements in Xinjiang-
Uygur Region demanding independence from Beijing are longstanding problem of China that
escalades occasionally. Local people of this region, Uygur Turks, have strong ethnic, religious and
cultural ties with Central Asia countries. After collapse of Soviet Union, independence of Central
Asian states influenced Uygur people in Xinjiang region. Some radical Islamist organizations,
which demand independence, made terrorist attacks both in Xinjiang-Uygur Region and other parts
of the China.9 Beijing has implemented some harsh and strong measures against these terrorist
organizations. However besides domestic activities China has made international moves to cut any
possible support to these organizations from ethnically and religiously close Central Asia states.
China gained support of his neighbors in Central Asia in its fight against separatist forces through
international organizations, namely Shanghai Cooperation Organization. In sum, Central Asia has
vital importance for China in terms of security, economy, commercial ties and energy. On the other
hand China has not completed his economical development, yet. Therefore, PRC tries to avoid
military engagements as much as possible, because Beijing interprets such an action as a great
threat to its economical development. Consequently, Beijing aims to avoid problems through
diplomacy and mutual cooperation especially in Central Asia. On the other hand Beijing is trying
to gain support of other regional powers in order to increase its power and change international
political environment to multi polar system. In this context, regional cooperation organizations

8 Chung, Chieng peng. “The Shanghai Cooperation Organization: China’s Changing Influence in Central Asia” The China Quarterly,

9 John Z. Wang, “Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement: A Case Study of a New Terrorist Organization in China”, International Journal of Offender
Therapy and Comparative Criminology

which provides suitable atmosphere for negotiation and diplomacy, are the best way for China to
reach their aim. Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) is the product of this political
interpretation.

Goals

Main sources and goals of foreign policy of China and policy of Beijing towards Central Asia
Pragmatism which is one of these characteristics has been one of the most important reasons for
economical development of China, allows Beijing to establish mutual interest based relations with
other states. Other important characteristic of Chinese foreign policy; nationalism has been used
as the main factor in order to maintain internal stability and public support for foreign policies.
Multilateralism as the last important characteristic of Chinese foreign policy provides opportunity
for Beijing to cooperate with other powers in order to increase its power in economical, security
and political means. Another aim Chinese foreign policy is to creating a modern and strong military.
Hard power still is the most important aspect of political power in current neo-realist international
environment. Consequently, Beijing needs a strong and modern military in order to increase its
influence area, defend its territorial integrity and deal with new security threats. Balancing
influence of United States in both Pacific and Central Asia, being strong in Taiwan dispute, having
deterrence effect on territorial disputes are the concrete aims of military modernization of Beijing.
According to neo Realist theory, security is in the first rank of hierarchy of interests and actors can
make cooperation with others in order to reach common foreign policy goals.10 Beijing tries to
realize some foreign policy goals through benefits of abovementioned sources. These sources are
effective instruments for Beijing in order to reach its goals. These goals are sustaining domestic
stability and its territorial integrity through avoiding interference of external forces of its internal
affairs, modernizing their military in order to defend their own interests, increase influence of
China in world politics and finally being a regional power. These goals are the keys of being a
more prosperous, dominant and influential actor in world politics. 11

Foreign policy of China towards Central Asia is a sub branch of Chinese foreign policy. Therefore,
policy of Beijing towards this region has every characteristic of general Chinese foreign policy.
Maintaining territorial integrity through dealing with separatist elements in Xinjiang, increasing
its influence in the region through economy and limiting existence of United States which

10 Amalendelu Misra, “Shanghai 5 and The Emerging Alliance in Central Asia: The Closed Society and Its Enemies,” Central Asian Survey

11 Yongnian Zheng, Discovering Chinese Nationalism in China, Modernization, Identity and International Relations, (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press 1999)

constitutes an obstacle for increase of China are the main pillars of Chinese foreign policy towards
Central Asia. SCO is the most important element in Chinese foreign policy on reaching its goals
in the region due to “three evils” concept, cooperation on economy and energy and limiting United
States presence in the region. SCO members want status quo in the region to be protected.
Therefore, they interpret every move aiming to chance current situation as against their interests
and try to prevent them through using “nonintervention to domestic affairs” disclosure.
Democratization and increase of human rights standards can cause instability in the region because
of lack of democratic culture in the region. On the other hand autocratic administrative cadres of
SCO member states do not want to lose their seats through democratization movements. Therefore,
SCO objects Western understanding of human rights and democratization processes in the region
and it interprets them as intervention to domestic affairs of the states. 12

12 Dmitri Trenin, “Russia and Central Asia, Interests, Policies and Prospects”, Central Asia, Views from Washington, Moscow and Beijing,
Eugene Rumer, Dmitri Trenin, Huasheng Zhao, (United States: M.E. Sharpe, 2016)

Conclusion

SCO is also an important tool for China in terms of balancing and limiting United States in Central
Asia. SCO has put noninterference domestic affairs of the states to the core of the organization and
colored revolutions are interpreted as violence of this principle. Therefore, China gets support of
SCO members in any kinds of colored revolution. On the other hand, military exercises within
SCO are clear indicators of the organization’s increasing weight in the region. In the other hand
Iran key point, which has very bad relations with United States, as observer member to the
organization is another important initiative of China in order to challenge policies of United States
in their area of influence. SCO has been affected by needs and policies of China and it has acted
as a very beneficial instrument for Beijing in its policies towards Central Asia. It can be said that
China is the most beneficiary member of the organization in comparison with other members. Even
name of the organization and location of secretariat are the indicators of importance of the
organization for China. Beijing has gained important benefits through organization both in political,
security and economical fields. SCO is the main instrument of China in the West which gives
suitable atmosphere to China in order to realize their targets. All in all, SCO is a beneficial
instrument for China today, it is a question mark if it can continue its importance in the future.
SCO cannot be a powerful and solid instrument for China if Beijing puts new goals to its foreign
policy. It can be foreseen that Beijing will look for a greater influence in world politics in global
level when it will complete its economical a military evolution. In this case, SCO cannot play
global role and answer demands of China, because of internal problems of the organization.
Attitude of Russia in case China becomes a global power is unknown. Therefore, SCO is a
beneficiary tool for existing foreign policy goals and have made great contributions, however it is
not suitable for further moves.

Bibliography

Serge Schemann, End of the Soviet Union; The Soviet State, Born of a Dream, Dies. In: The New York Times.
Link: http://www.nytimes.com/1991/12/26/world/end-of-the-soviet-union-the-soviet-state-born-of-a-dream-
dies.html?pagewanted=all,

??????????? ??????????? ?????????????? (???), ??? ???, Teb-Consulting, Link: http://teb-consulting.ru/post-
9523 Accessed: 04.01.2018

Vladimir Portyakov, “The Shanghai Cooperation Organization: Achievements, Problems, Prospects”, Far Eastern
Affairs, (2017)

G. Chufrin, “The SCO: Changing Priorities,” International Affairs, 53, No.1

Nozimahon Sayfiddinova “Shanghai Cooperation Organization and Dynamics of Economic Integration in The Far
East” International Journal of Engineering Inventions (2017) Link: http://www.ijeijournal.com/papers/Vol.6-
Iss.6/I06065863.pdf

Chung, Chieng peng. “The Shanghai Cooperation Organization: China’s Changing Influence in Central Asia” The
China Quarterly,

John Z. Wang, “Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement: A Case Study of a New Terrorist Organization in China”,

International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology

Amalendelu Misra, “Shanghai 5 and The Emerging Alliance in Central Asia: The Closed Society and Its Enemies,”

Central Asian Survey

Yongnian Zheng, Discovering Chinese Nationalism in China, Modernization, Identity and International Relations,
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1999)

Dmitri Trenin, “Russia and Central Asia, Interests, Policies and Prospects”, Central Asia, Views from Washington,
Moscow and Beijing, Eugene Rumer, Dmitri Trenin, Huasheng Zhao, (United States: M.E. Sharpe, 2016)

?????? ??????????, ??????????? ??????????? ?????????????? (???), ?????? ??? ? ??????, In: ???
??????? Link: https://ria.ru/spravka/20170608/1495914523.html, Accessed 03.01.2018 

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