The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) showcased the rise of China, Russia, Turkey and Iran as an emerging bloc of countries. While the SCO is ostensibly a group of states that includes most of the countries of Central Asia; the role of Turkey and Iran this year was of greater importance than in the Past. Turkish social media was full of posts showing Turkey’s President meeting with Russia’s leader; as well as speaking with other authoritarian leaders at the SCO summit in Uzbekistan.
Meanwhile, CGTN media reported that “Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday urged Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) member states to keep the SCO on the right course, deepen cooperation in various fields, and continue to foster a favorable environment for the development and rejuvenation of member states.”
What does the Chinese leader have to say?
The Chinese leader stressed the need for states to work toward security and stability. He spoke after clashes had taken place between Azerbaijan and Armenia as well as Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan; and as Russia continues its war in Ukraine. It appears that this chaos could undermine China’s push for economic success. The Chinese leader said that it's important for SCO member states to pursue inclusiveness and shared benefits in promoting development cooperation. “Member states should actively promote trade and investment liberalization and facilitation, ensure the stable and smooth functioning of industrial and supply chains, and encourage the orderly flow of resources and factors of production, so as to realize greater economic integration and development in the region,” said Xi, according to CGTN.
China cares about its Belt and Road Initiative and other national development strategies, and new conflicts would undermine China’s agenda. However, it’s clear that other members of the SCO and dialogue partners of the forum, such as Turkey, are pushing for more influence and they will use conflict to get what they want. China, meanwhile, pays lip service to support “harmonious coexistence and mutual learning between different countries, nations and cultures.”
Overall the goal of China is for the SCO to play a larger role in the emerging multipolar world, meaning the SCO will balance the role of the US and the West. The SCO in general is moving to include more countries and influence Arab and Asian countries. Russia’s President was closely watched at the meetings. He has appeared weakened by Russia’s setbacks in Ukraine. Photos showed Vladimir Putin waiting for meetings and appeared to place a secondary role, even less influential than Erdogan. This shows that countries may wonder whether Russia can pull its weight and follow through on its obligations. However, it is not clear if the photos conveyed the whole story; Russia is still an important part of the SCO and China and Russia cooperate on many issues.