The coastal city of Qingdao in eastern China’s Shandong Province is set to host the 18th annual summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) this weekend. Since it was established 17 years ago, the SCO has achieved remarkable economic and investment development, and improved connectivity and people-to-people exchanges.
Dozens of sideline events have kicked off around China that highlights the importance of the SCO. Chinese President Xi Jinping promised last year to launch the SCO Media Summit, a promise fulfilled this year when Beijing hosted the first such summit with journalists and media organizations representing more than 50 countries in attendance. President Xi sent a congratulatory message to the meeting and asked media representatives to raise awareness of the SCO and its role in promoting people-to-people interaction and exchanges.
Tajik President Emomali Rahmon (1st L) is greeted upon his arrival in Qingdao, east China’s Shandong Province, June 9, 2018. Rahmon is here to attend the 18th Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit.[Photo: Xinhua]
Culture is one of the major tools in today’s world order, and cultural diplomacy can play a vital role in spreading and promoting the SCO and the Shanghai Spirit. In this vein, China’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism hosted an art festival in Beijing that showcased the talents of folk artists from SCO member states. Events like this are important for intercultural communication and exchange within the SCO.
The SCO has also emerged as a powerful organization in terms of its ability to improve connectivity and boost economies, with increasing investment from China into the other member states estimated to have reached 80 billion U.S. dollars. And with Pakistan and India now having joined the organization, it has come to represent around half of the world’s population, a quarter of its GDP, and about 80 of the Eurasian landmass. And SCO membership is open to the other states in the region. The organization has achieved tremendous trust from its members, and a growing number of countries are interested in joining the bloc.
Central Asia countries are also gaining significant global attention through their active participation in the SCO. This will help to raise the level of economic development and enrich the lifestyles of the people living in these countries.
For now, all eyes are on what has come to be known as the “Qingdao Declaration”, the major position statement that will emerge from this weekend’s summit. The world faces numerous challenges, including terrorism, environmental threats, and protectionism, to name just a few. The heads of the SCO member states will make a joint declaration on what they see as their mutual challenges.
One major challenge not only faced by SCO members but the world more widely is the threat of terrorism. SCO members will likely put a strong focus on eradicating the menace of terrorism in in all its forms. Terrorism is a common enemy and a threat to the mindset of progress, prosperity, and the development of mankind.
This SCO Summit in Qingdao will also be a major boom for trade, investment, and tourism in both Qingdao and Shandong Province more broadly. In the aftermath of this summit there will be a definite increase in the number of conferences and exhibitions held in this coastal city.
The Shanghai Cooperation Organization has evolved into an organization that provides genuine representation of its members. This highly valued platform has been developed by countries whose importance was traditionally discounted by the world’s leading organizations. Now is the time for the SCO members to be united and to work together for peace and stability in the region.
(Malik Ayub Sumbal is an award-winning political analyst, columnist, and broadcaster.)