Source: CGTN Published: 2018-6-7
The relevance between the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) requires us to dive into history to understand how this institution was born and how the SCO was created.
History of SCO
Actually, history brings us back to the 1960s, when the former Soviet Union and China created a special commission in order to discuss border issues, such as how to approach the problematic issue of demarcating shared borders. Thanks to the very efficient commission, one of the longest borders in the world was successfully demarcated.
Upon the dissolution of the former Soviet Union, this platform became the so-called "Five Countries" due to Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and China forming the "Five Countries Participants" to deal with border issues. Since then, regular meetings have taken place.
The five countries came together years after to debate how this organization should solve issues and how it should work in the future. This institution gradually emerged as the so-called "Security Institution," where the five countries debated not only border problems but also cooperation on security issues.
Pakistan and Uzbekistan then joined this institution.
In 1998, in the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek, six countries agreed to create a formal institution. Finally, at the historic 2001 meeting in Shanghai, the SCO came into existence.
We now see a tremendous success for this initiative, success unprecedented in the world. What is the success? Too many countries want to join. Now, you have eight countries, which are full members, four countries who are observers, and six countries as dialogue partners. So, it looks like Eurasia is going to be united.
To be global, you need players on the international stage. At this moment, 65 percent of the Earth`s landmass is represented by the SCO, encompassing 3.2 billion people, which is 44 percent of the world population. It is incredible. And economically, it is becoming a very huge power.
The G7 meeting opens in Canada on Thursday. The G7 has the US – the biggest economy, the UK, France, Italy, Canada, and others, which are also major economies in the world. But, it is my question to you: What is the biggest economic organization? SCO or G7?
In terms of purchasing power parity, who is the biggest? In 2017, they became equal. So, the economies represented by the SCO have reached the level of the countries in the G7, which is around 38.8 trillion US dollars. This year, the SCO became bigger, so it is the largest economic organization in 2018.
We will try to work hard to keep this momentum in the future as well. The organization was created as an international security institution, but is focusing more and more on economic cooperation. It is not easy, given a slew of sensitive issues on economic matters. But, again, there are successes.
Railroad transportation is another tremendous success on connecting Europe and China and other SCO countries. What`s important is that during these 17 years, a special atmosphere was created – the Shanghai Spirit based on mutual trust. So, trust is absolutely the key in this institution.
Belt and Road
The Shanghai Spirit, dealing with mutual investment, mutual trust, and joint problems, is what the BRI is all about.
Now there is a misguided perception that the BRI is simply about roads, highways, railways, tunnels, and pipelines. No, this is only the easiest part of the Initiative. Why? Because you did it in your own country, you just need to replicate it elsewhere. But it is very difficult to do on foreign soil.
This is why I am continuously trying to come to the line that not supply but a demand-driven approach is essential, and the No. 1 priority for all of us should be developing our soft power, which is people to people, culture to culture, languages, education, science, population, history and so on.
Only when we are able to understand each other on a deeper level will we be able to build trust not only at the leadership level but also at the level of the people in these lands.
Now, what is your image of the United States? When the country is brought up, you would think of Google, Hollywood, Michael Jordan, and Tiger Woods. But China has Yao Ming and Jack Ma, and has produced dozens of such brands that will contribute to China’s image. Do not be modest, but try to be active.
This is actually a thing which I expect from the SCO, since it has an excellent history and has produced excellent results. Therefore, its initiative is going to be working very organically in the future. But we still have a lot of work to do, so I wish you all the very best, in this long but very important global task.
Djoomart Otorbaev is former prime minister of Kyrgyzstan and now a senior researcher at Chongyang Institution for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China.