News / Asia

Analysts: Shanghai Cooperation Organization Flourishing, Thanks to Help from China

Members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization seen during a meeting in Tashkent, Uzbekistan (File Photo - June 11, 2010)
Members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization seen during a meeting in Tashkent, Uzbekistan (File Photo - June 11, 2010)

The Asian regional alliance known as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization was originally set up to deal with border disputes among China, Russia and several Central Asia countries.  After 10 years and billions of dollars in Chinese loans, outside analysts say the group is flourishing and attracting new members.

As the Shanghai Cooperation Organization celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, the group is considering expanding its membership for the first time beyond original members China, Russia and the four central Asia countries Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

This week the top leaders from those countries will be joined by the presidents of Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan, as well as India’s foreign secretary, for a summit in the Kazakh capital Astana.

New momentum

Richard Weitz, with the Washington-based public policy organization the Hudson Institute, says the SCO grouping has a new momentum that even its members did not expect. 

“They have all been surprised by how rapidly and well it has developed in its first years. They did not anticipate that,” Weitz said.

The SCO countries all have their own interests, especially the two biggest members: China and Russia. Weitz says Moscow and Beijing share common interests in fighting extremism and instability.

He says energy is one area that many observers thought would lead to conflict, but instead has so far led to cooperation.  He says he thinks this is because China, with its huge energy needs, so far has been intentionally deferential to Russia, which has energy resources to sell.

Multilateral format

Weitz says smaller member countries are also benefiting from the SCO’s multilateral format.

“For the other countries, it is a good way to find deals with both Moscow and Beijing," he said. "Trying to deal with either country one on one, they are inherently at a disadvantage because they are a lot weaker.  But having them all pulled together, it allows a little more balance and is the same as has been quoted by some unnamed Central Asian official, when she said that having the Chinese in the room means the Russians can’t resort to their usual tricks.”

SCO membership also gives countries access to preferential loans from China’s Import-Export Bank. China has been a prolific lender in recent years, and by some estimates doles out more money in loans to the developing world than the World Bank.

In 2009 alone, Chinese President Hu Jintao announced $10 billion worth of loans to other SCO members.

Chinese lending officials say they have implemented more than 50 projects in SCO member states that are aimed at promoting economic and social development. The bank says loans support programs relating to communications, transportation, energy and agriculture.

Chinese Assistant Foreign Affairs Minister Cheng Guoping said nearly three quarters of that money already has been provided to recipient countries, and he indicated more could be on the way.

Financial support

Cheng says other SCO members expect stronger economic and financial support from China, so President Hu will be discussing what else can be done within the SCO framework to promote what he described as practical economic cooperation.

The SCO now has four observers: India, Iran, Mongolia and Pakistan. All but Mongolia are applying for full membership.

Turkey also has applied to join Belarus and Sri Lanka as an SCO dialogue partner.

Outside observers say they do not expect the group to take on more full members this time, but Cheng says enlargement is an inevitable process.

Cheng says leaders at the Astana summit will sign a document on legal conditions for new membership.  He says the SCO charter states that new members are admitted based on a consensus of existing members.


While member states praise the benefits of joining, human rights groups are less enthusiastic.

Rights groups say SCO members adopt China’s approach to terrorism, which also lumps separatism and extremism into the definition.

Sharon Hom, who heads the New York-based group, Human Rights in China, says the SCO is “absolutely on the same page as China” in terms of adopting Beijing’s approach to counter-terrorism.

“The actual practices of the SCO have engendered practices that violate the rights of individuals, through practices like blacklists, and the collection of intelligence through extradition and forcible return and denial of asylum, and also through joint military and law enforcement exercises, in which China is very, very prominent," said Hom.  "And they often include exercises conducted in ethnic regions.  And the simulated events often involve how to control civil unrest.”

In May, Chinese forces joined troops from Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan in counterterrorism drills in China’s far northwestern Xinjiang.  The restive region is home to China’s Muslim minority Uighurs, a Turkic people whom the Chinese government is accused of suppressing.

Ahead of Wednesday’s summit in Kazakhstan, China confirmed that host nation Kazakhstan has turned over a Uighur refugee who fled to the country in 2009 following ethnic riots in China’s Xinjiang region.  

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei confirmed the extradition. He says the Uighur man was wanted by Chinese security authorities.  He said the case is now being handled by Chinese judicial authorities.

Human Rights in China says Ershidin Israil was initially granted refugee status by the United Nations in March last year, but he was later arrested by Kazakh authorities and denied political asylum.  The group says his treatment raises serious questions about the impact the Shanghai Cooperation Organization has on respect for human rights.

You May Like

Video Americans, Tourists, Reflect on Meaning of Thanksgiving

VOA garnered opinions from several people soon after November 13 Paris attacks, which colored many of their thoughts

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

In northern Thailand, the annual tradition of constructing floating baskets to carry away the year’s bad spirits highlights the Loy Krathong festival

Video Tree Houses - A Branch of American Dream

Workshops aimed at teaching people how to build tree houses have become widely popular in America in recent years

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs