CGTN: With new member, SCO eyes closer cooperation amid global challenges
BEIJING, July 4, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — Iran on Tuesday officially became the ninth member state of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), a comprehensive regional cooperation organization that covers the largest area and population on the globe.
Iran’s full-scale admission was formalized at the 23rd meeting of the Council of Heads of State of the organization. SCO leaders attended the meeting online.
Addressing the meeting, Chinese President Xi Jinping welcomed Iran into the SCO family and called on SCO member states to stay in unity and coordination so as to bring more certainty and positive energy to world peace and development.
“The people’s wish for a happy life is our goal, and peace, development and win-win cooperation are the unstoppable trends of the times,” Xi noted.
Calling for making the world a better place, Xi told SCO leaders that China is ready to work with other member states to actively implement the Global Development Initiative (GDI), Global Security Initiative (GSI), and Global Civilization Initiative (GCI).
In a world of turmoil and transformation, President Xi successively proposed the GDI, GSI and GCI, contributing China’s solution to global governance. The three initiatives also meet the needs of the SCO to strengthen its “three pillars,” the three major cooperation areas of security, economy and people-to-people exchanges.
Safeguarding common security
The SCO was born more than two decades ago with a fundamental mission to combat the three forces of terrorism, separatism and extremism. Over the years, security cooperation has remained a major focus for member states within the SCO framework.
To combat the “three forces,” SCO members have made notable strides by expanding intelligence sharing and information exchanges, and carrying out joint anti-terror exercises. In 2020 alone, SCO member states managed to prevent over 40 terrorist attacks and dismantled more than 50 terrorist groups.
The organization also functions as a major coordinator of the member countries’ efforts to clamp down on drug trafficking and transnational organized crimes and handle flare-ups of regional hotspots through such mechanisms as the SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group.
Calling for maintaining regional peace and safeguarding common security, Xi pointed out that “sustaining peace and security in this region is our common responsibility.”
He added that China stands ready to work with all sides to implement the GSI, promote the settlement of international disputes through dialogue and consultation, and encourage political settlement of international and regional hotspots, so as to forge a solid security shield in the region.
Making ‘cooperation pie’ bigger
Covering three-fifths of the Eurasian continent, the SCO presents nearly half of the world’s population and over 20 percent of the global gross domestic product (GDP), which also means even greater potential for development. And the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has offered SCO members a chance to tap the potential and gear up their practical cooperation, notably in infrastructure.
With the construction of transportation services such as the China–Kyrgyzstan–Uzbekistan railway, the China-Central Asia natural gas pipeline and the regular operation of China–Europe freight train services, ties among SCO member states have become physically closer.
“We should work together to broaden the Belt and Road as a ‘path of happiness’ benefiting the whole world,” Xi said, and he told SCO leaders that on the BRI’s 10th anniversary, China will hold the third Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation.
The China-SCO local economic and trade cooperation demonstration zone has also brought tangible benefits to local people. Its trade with SCO countries surged to 8.1 billion yuan (about $1.1 billion) in 2022 from 850 million yuan (about $117 million) in 2019.
Promoting economic growth is a common task for all countries in the region, President Xi stressed during the meeting. He called on SCO members to focus on practical cooperation and expedite economic recovery.
He also vowed to work with all sides to implement the GDI and make the pie of win-win cooperation bigger while voicing against protectionism, unilateral sanctions and the overstretching of national security, and rejecting moves of setting up barriers, decoupling and severing supply chains.
Tightening bonds among people
The SCO states are home to many ancient civilizations and ethnic groups with a kaleidoscopic religious and cultural inheritance, making efforts to promote cross-cultural exchanges and mutual understanding truly necessary.
Cultural events such as the Year of Languages, the Year of Culture, and the Year of Tourism have been held in succession among member countries, aiming to help people from SCO member states know each other better.
The SCO has also developed the University of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (USCO), which encourages cultural and academic exchanges between the youth from SCO member states. At present, there are 82 colleges and universities under the cooperation program of the USCO, with seven professional directions.
The Chinese president on Tuesday announced that in the coming three years, China will provide SCO member states with 1,000 International Chinese Language Teachers Scholarships, offer 3,000 “Chinese Bridge” summer camp opportunities, and invite 100 young scientists to China for scientific research exchanges.
Xi believes that all nations in the region aspire to see harmonious development of different civilizations. “We welcome all sides to work together to implement the Global Civilization Initiative, promote inclusiveness and coexistence among all civilizations, and increase mutual understanding and friendship among all nations.”