Shanghai Cooperation Organization, “the next NATO”

Yes, I know, we talked about this recently. Some argued it’s a lot of noise over nothing, that the SCO is one huge and singularly insignifcant gab-fest and that it’ll never amount to a hill of beans. I’m still remaining more or less neutral, because I’m just learning about the SCO and, I suspect, it’s to early to say whether they’re the next big thing or nothing at all. Still, when I see a news article like this, I can’t just dismiss it: these are big players getting together, and the stakes are enormous.

IRAN’S controversial President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is flying to Shanghai tomorrow to take part in a summit that will seal China’s plans to lead an Asian rival to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

The Shanghai Co-operation Organisation – whose meeting has forced the shutdown of much of the city this week – is celebrating its fifth anniversary, and is preparing to expand its membership well beyond the present China, Russia and four strategic central Asian states: Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Li Hui refused at a briefing yesterday to disclose the countries that wished to become observers or full members, beyond saying: “A lot of countries in Asia and other continents have applied, demonstrating the SCO is broadening its influence.”

Other leaders who will attend the summit include the presidents of Pakistan and Mongolia – formal observer states, like Iran and India – and Afghanistan.

Most of the members share a huge potential – and, in China’s case, an appetite – for increased energy production. India is sending its Oil and Gas Minister.

In the past, they have also shared a focus on combating Islamist terror. But Iran’s participation in this summit and its eagerness to become a full member appear to point the organisation in a different direction: a corral of countries capable of countering Western influence.

Mr Li, while claiming the organisation was “very transparent”, was unable to disclose items on the agenda. He said he had not been briefed on whether China, Russia and Iran would discuss separately the current international controversy over Iran’s nuclear ambitions. “To China, this is one of the most important diplomatic events of this year. The organisation is developing and getting stronger,” he said.

Yeah, I’m sure the SCO is always fully “transparent.” Who is more noted for transparency than Uzbekestan, China and Kazakhstan? (The CCP, model of transparency and openness.) Everything they do, by the way, is in the name of fighting terrorism. It’s a neat trick that my own president started: you can justify virtually anything, and you can stamp literally any document as Top Secret, as long as you do so in the name tof Terrorism. Of course, most of these SCO thugsbigwigs are famous for practicing torture and murder and obscene acts of represion, so watching them come together under the rubric of terrorism should give us all something to laugh about. Except these guys are no laughing matter, and the thought of them ever gaining measurable power is a disturbing one.

Read the article, and don’t miss the opinion of the analyst from Cambridge University’s East Asia Institute. I’m willing to believe the SCO meetings are boring, masturbatory events. I’m less willing to believe they should be dismissed as inconsequential. Boring and pointless though their public meetings may be, treaties are being signed, deals made and lots of oil and gas divvied up. So maybe this group is worth watching.

[Thanks to this once-famous blogger for sending me the link; now, when are you going to update your site?? It’s been months.]

The Discussion: 8 Comments

thats awesome. mahamood amercrazyguy is coming to china. i think i just threw up a little in my mouth. seriously.

June 13, 2006 @ 3:57 am | Comment

Well I’ll agree with Richard that the SCO is not inconsequential. But the potential consequences are (or will be) far less important than these MSM news reports AND the analysts on which they’re relying, have been suggesting. Because: history and geography are always, ALWAYS more significant than bureaucracies or stated aspirations, and especially more significant than any statements by China’s Foreign Ministry.

Thus, just one observation I’ll make, for now, about what the cited analyst David Wall said above:

“…the only common denominators are a communist past or present, and autocratic to ruthless dictatorial governments.”

Hoo-wee. That boy needs to go back to school, because what he said is true, but not true enough. Because: He completely disregarded THE MOST important common denominator, which is geography.

Look at a map. The SCO (as I’ve said here before) consists principally of the Russia and China and the former Soviet state of Central Asia. And those Central Asian states are the focus of the SCO. OF COURSE they share a common background of (nominal) “Communism.”
But when Russia (including those Central Asian statelets) and China were both “Communist” they were at each other’s throats most of the time.

And yes now they’re talking to Iran. So what?
America has been in bed with dictatorial and religiously fanatical Saudi Arabia for decades. Etc etc.

I mean, there is no common ideology among these states, NOR is there any superordinate common interest other than concerns over the stability of Central Asia – and yes that does include how Russia and China both want access to the oil (AND to the oil of Iran, yes.) But Mr Wall is over-analysing (and being overly abstract) when he talks about the SCO having aims of countering “Western influence.”

What the hell is “Western influence?” Bad Hollywood movies with lots of helicopters? The particular interests of France, or of Italy? “Western influence” and “Western interests” are obsolete concepts which should have been buried along with the Berlin Wall.

I’ll just sum this up again by saying: Look at a map. This is more about relations between Russia and China – ie, about avoiding conflict between Russia and China over Central Asia – than about any strategic “anti-Western” club of dictators.

June 13, 2006 @ 5:01 am | Comment

One thing to note is that SCO is not a treaty organization like NATO. NATO is a military alliance whose members are obligated by treaty (which has the force of law) to support each other in war. SCO, on the other hand, is a “cooperation organization” where countries can talk about cooperating on a range of matters but are actually not obligated to do anything.

BTW, SCO was actually formed before 9/11 and its original purpose was focused on stopping the Taliban from spreading its influence and its brand of Islam in the region, which is something all of the original members of SCO were deeply concerned with.

June 13, 2006 @ 12:30 pm | Comment

Ditto, what Hui Mao said.

Weirdly enough – because I’m hostile to the delusional ambitions of many Chinese Nationalists – I actually approve of the SCO, overall. I think the SCO is good for the World – and I think it is ESPECIALLY good for “the West.”

If anything, the SCO is actually GOOD for the USA AND for Europe, insofar as the USA and Europe share a common interest with Russia (and to a FAR LESSER extent, with China) about keeping stability in Central Asia. And it is more to “the West’s” advantage than China’s.

And I say this as someone who is very concerned about containing the aspirations of the psychotically Nationalist faction of China’s central government.

This is what REAL “realpolitik” means.

The SCO – to the extent that is has any real effects at all – is actually a way in which to LIMIT and to CONTAIN any expansionist aspirations of the extreme Nationalists of China.

And if you ask, HOW? The answer is: Russia.
Russia’s role in the SCO, is, PRECISELY, the role of containing China.

And if you don’t understand this, then you need to learn a lot more about the ways of Russian strategy/diplomacy…. ๐Ÿ™‚

June 13, 2006 @ 1:30 pm | Comment

I’ll agree with Ivan on the overexaggeration of the SCO by the MSM. But I don’t necessarily think it’s “good” for the USA and Europe. China’s primary goal with the SCO is, like Ivan said, to remove a threat from its northwestern borders so it can focus on projecting its influence through SE Asia and circumventing Japan and Australia (which, btw, has now eliminated Chinese influence in the Solomon Islands–lovely job in instigating a riot to push out those annoying Chinese businessmen and open the door for Aussie peacekeepers.)

June 13, 2006 @ 8:20 pm | Comment


Ah-ha. Well, if China wants to try to “project its influence” through Viet Nam, they’re welcome to it.
(Sardonic, gloating smile here…..)

June 13, 2006 @ 10:28 pm | Comment


Russian needs China as an ally. Probably more so than China needs Russia. Think about it. America is not friendly at all to Russia, much less friendlier than to China. All the eastern European nations resent Russia too. And so too do the Western Europeans.

Personally, I think America perceives a reinvigorated Russia as a greater threat to its hegemony than China will ever be.

So what better way(for Russia) than to use the SCO to cement relations with China and the central Asian states who are afraid of grassroots Islamic fundamentalists?

Imagine if China suddenly goes pro-American, Russia’s entire southern flank will be completely exposed. With NATO expansion into Eastern Europe, and American hegemony in the Middle East, and then a alienated China going over to the Americans, American “containment” of Russia would be virtually complete.

So that’s why the SCO is so important. It’s really about Russia trying to break American containment, which, after listening to Ivan’s disdain for China, I don’t think it’s a bad idea afterall.

June 15, 2006 @ 1:33 pm | Comment

Oh, well, after that BRILLIANT analysis by “TIME”, I’ve changed my mind.

Especially after I saw how he writes like a Chinese university student, parroting every single catch-phrase the CCP instructors use in their political education classes.

Good God. THAT kind of blinkered ignorance is exactly why I keep saying: China is NOT the stuff of a rising power. You can’t create a world power out of brainwashed zombies who don’t know a bloody thing about how the world works.

June 15, 2006 @ 6:59 pm | Comment

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