Yu Jianhua and Fu Yong

Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and Nontraditional Security Cooperation in Central Asia

Yu Jianhua  &  Fu Yong

After the Cold War, the regional organization comes to be the main platform for security cooperation between countries pushed by non-traditional security issues. The regionalized security makes the regional cooperation as a new type of strategic thinking for security and development. The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) is the model of regional security community. As a newly emerged regional cooperation organizations in the Eurasian area, SCO plays a key role in consolidating and developing a new kind of interstates relationship under the guidance of equality, cooperation and non-alignment, and gradually grows into a multilateral cooperation and regional governance mechanism for dealing with the challenge of non-traditional security & the seeking of common security, and becomes an indispensable strategic base for promoting a “harmonious region” construction.

1. Regionalization of Security and SCO

Since the end of Cold War, with the dramatic changing of international situation and the accelerating of the economic globalization, the human being is facing more challenges of non-traditional security issues than that of the traditional security. The most distinctive characteristic of non-traditional security is of its transnational nature. Most non-traditional issues are public concerns, and usually pose a common threat to human beings. Its commerce, development and solve are not limited to one country, but are characterized by its cross-border action and strong transitivity effect. It blurs the boundaries of international and domestic, and becomes a common security issue with many countries concerned. Its obvious cross-border and multi-national concerned feature push the emergence of regionalization of security  in the international security situation after the cold war. After the break of the former Soviet Union in 1991, the five Central Asian countries - Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan declared independence, which results in the emergence of a new geopolitical plate in Eurasia's "heartland," and becomes one of the most prominent area featured regionalization of security after the cold war.
The first is the regionalization of security threat, namely the security threat is rooted in the all kinds of intentions and conflicts.

After the cold war, the five Central Asian countries began their national construction immediately on the bases of economic transition with market and privatization oriented and institutional transformation with democracy characterized under the circumstances of lacking necessary economic foundation and without fully considered preparation, it led to serious economic  downturn, the huge social gap between the rich and poor, the rapid growth of unemployed, the widespread economic impoverishment, the serious weakening of the government’s administrative capability, and even stimulated the rise of trans-national criminal activities such as the drug-related crimes and illegal migration. All of these new-emerged problems bring about the illegal activities of “the three evil forces” (terrorism, separatism and extremism). It is clear that the Central Asian region has become the turmoil belt of non-traditional security issues such as the rampant “three evils”, drug trafficking, people smuggling and social disorder. The fundamental reason of the abovementioned social disease’ abrupt outbreak lies in the Central Asian countries’ institutional deficits and structural contradictions in the process of rapid transition. Furthermore, these social diseases quickly become a cardinal security threat for the region’s peace and stability.       
The second is the regionalization of security fate, namely, the security threat has spread to all countries in the region, and none of each can evade from its influence, because every country’s security has been linked closely to that of its neighbors and the whole region.

The Central Asian countries is inextricably linked with each other and with both Russia and China by geography, politics, economy, culture, nations and religion, as far as security concerned, they have developed into a close interdependent relationships for a long time. Although the all kinds of non-traditional security threats are rooted in the Central Asian countries’ institutional defect, Russia and China also the direct victims, so both Russia and China have the same imperative security interest demands as that of the Central Five States. As a big responsible state, Russia and China have an unshakable responsibility to safeguard and promote this region’s stability and development. It can be said that Russia, China and the Central Asian countries not only form into a geopolitics plate by their adjacent geographic location, but also form into an international region in the sense of security by their deepening interdependence under the push of common security threat and fate.

The last is the regionalization of security action, namely each county in the region begins to go beyond the unilateral self-assistant behavior on security issues and replace it with mutual help to escape the security dilemma when facing the common security threat, and develop it into a new form of regional security cooperation.

The heads of China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan signed the “Agreement on Confidence-Building in the Military Field along the Border Areas” on April 26, 1996, in Shanghai, thus launched the process of “Shanghai Five”. In order to meet the need of deepening the member states’ cooperation and the development of regional situation, the “Shanghai Five” successfully realized its historical leap that changed the heads meeting mechanism into a multilateral regional cooperation organization mechanism, that is, on June 15, 2001, the heads of “Shanghai Five” and the newly incorporated Uzbekistan gathered in Shanghai, and jointly signed the “Declaration on the Establishment of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization”( referred to as the “Shanghai Convention”) and the “Convention on Fighting Terrorism, Separatism and Extremism”. It laid the legal foundation to expand the scope of security cooperation and to combat the “three evils”. In June of the following year, the six heads of states signed the “Charter of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization”, which outlines SCO’s basic goals and principles, among which the politics, economy, security and humanities cooperation are its cardinal constituent, security cooperation is particularly pointed out as the basic direction and primary task within the framework of the organization. As a new type of regional cooperation organization emerged in heart of the Eurasian continent after the cold war, the establishment of SCO is a great historic undertaking that China, Russia and the Central Asian countries transcend the cold war thinking to deal with the non-traditional security threat and push the regional cooperation forward by consultation and cooperation under the guiding of new outlook on security.

2. The Regional Governance of SCO on Non-traditional Security Issues

The situation of regionalization of security makes the regional cooperation into a new type of thinking about security, development and strategy in the 21st century. More and more states begin to view and tackle the security issues from regional perspective. They not only create regional common interest on the basis of regional identity, but also explore comprehensive interest according to the common geography, common blood and humanity background. Amitav Acharya,a Canadian scholar on international relations, has carried out a research on the international relations in the region of East Asia and South Asia by applying the theory of security community. He views the security community as a transnational region composed of sovereign state. This kind of security community is a joint type, and has realized some form of political union. It is also a multi-type, and its members retain the independence and sovereignty. The most important is this kind of security community is set up on the basis of the most fundamental, consistent and long-term convergence of interests in order to avoid war among the actors. It is characterized with overall link, cooperation, integration or interdependence. It’s different from the coalition for its absence of competitive military build-up or arms race. “To avoid conflicts and settle disputes by peaceful means are the most important common interest of the security community,”  there is no doubt that SCO is such kind of regional security community with abovementioned features to adapt to the current situation of security regionalization in today’s Eurasia landmass. As a new type of regional cooperation format, SCO takes the new outlook on security as its theoretical cornerstone, and gradually marches into a new regional cooperation path that starts the cooperation from the establishment of military mutual trust along the borders, then expand it to a broaden domain such as maintaining the security and stability of the region, promoting the regional cooperation on economy and trade, and finally becomes a new model for the governance of regional non-traditional issues.

Firstly, SCO is given the important function to promote mutual trust by dialogue, to promote common security by cooperation under the guiding of new outlook on security based on “mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality and mutual consultation”, and shakes off the shackles of traditional idea about regional security which emphasizes prevention and confrontation. The “Shanghai Five”—SCO process has put forward for the first time the new outlook on security with mutual trust, disarmament and cooperation at the core, it advocates and emphasizes the multilateral, cooperative and comprehensive of security. The SCO regards the relativity, interdependence and comprehensiveness of the security subject as the basic feature of contemporary international security, thus makes the security decoupling completely from power. It holds the view that any country’s security is based on its behavior of cooperation or confrontation instead of its power. It pays more attention to the institutional and systematic construction of international security cooperation. In order to escape from the security dilemma, the SCO encourages each state to give up the unilateral and zero-sum security aspiration to establish a new type of regional security community by the means of mutual trust and cooperation.

Secondly, SCO incorporates the military mutual trust created initiatively by China and Russia into the multilateral regional dialogue framework, and gradually expands it to broader domain such as the non-traditional security, in the meantime, sublimates it to the common understanding, basic norms through the institutionalized construction of regional cooperation, and endows the good-neighborly and friendly relations of being partnering and non-alignment with legal status  which becomes a solid foundation for member state’s cooperation, and then develops and deepens this new type of interstates relations in the process of regional cooperation. The “Declaration on the Establishment of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization” signed in 2001 points out clearly that the “Shanghai Spirit”--- with “mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality, mutual consultation, respect for diversity of civilizations and pursuit of common development” as its basic contents, formed in the process of “Shanghai Five”, is a valuable asset accumulated by the states for many years, it should be developed into a “behavior guidelines for the member states in the new century”  The SCO takes the equality and cooperation among the member states as basic norms on the basis of mutual trust, and improve and enrich it gradually in the process of institutional construction.

The SCO has a most significant achievement in the non-traditional security field in its institutional construction. The member states have signed a series of restrictive and normative documents such as the “Convention on Fighting Terrorism, Separatism and Extremism”, the “Agreements on Cooperation among the Governments of the SCO Member States in the Fight against Illegal Trade in Arms, Ammunition and Explosives” and the “Convention on Anti-Terrorism of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization”. According to these documents, the armed forces and law enforcement forces of the member states have held joint anti-terrorism exercise for six times since the year of 2002, which demonstrates the positive role of regional cooperation in coping with the non-traditional security threat and is conducive to deter the “three evils” by effectively enhancing the member states’ capacity of crisis prevention, rapid-reaction and consequences processing. Before and after the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, all member states have successfully engaged in a series of fruitful and pragmatic cooperation which further deepening this kind of cooperation within the framework of security cooperation.

Meanwhile, all of these codes of conduct provide a powerful safeguard and sustainable driving force for deepening and developing a new type of interstates relations. In July, 2007, the “Treaty on Sino-Russia Good-neighborliness and Friendly Cooperation” was signed, which clarifies that “the friendly relations between the two countries is a new type of interstates relationship based on the non-alignment, non-confrontation and not targeting at any third party”.  This new type of non-aligned good-neighborliness and friendly cooperation discards the traditional power politics thinking of alliance vs. confrontation and pursuing interests by force, and surpasses the cold war thinking that attaches too much importance on the military bloc’s strength and expansion, and breakthroughs the tragedy of fatalism that “great power destined to invade other country” upheld by the traditional security concept.  The “Treaty on Long-term Good-neighborliness, Friendship  Cooperation between Member States of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization”, signed in the August 2007 Bishkek summit, has incarnated this new interstate relation’s tremendous demonstrative effect guiding by new outlook on security, has expressed the long-cherished wish of friendship, forever peace, mutual benefit & cooperation from generation to generation between the member states, and even has been an important milestone in the history of SCO’s development.

Finally, the SCO takes regional security cooperation as guideline in the process of practicing the new outlook on security. Driven by the “spillover” effect, it keeps on expanding its scale and domain of organization and cooperation, and finally develops into a new type of regional governance mechanism with comprehensiveness and openness while keep open to outside and participate the international cooperation actively. 

Considering the security threat facing the Central Asian region after the cold war has a series of profound and complex social causes, the SCO particularly underlines the concept of comprehensive security, which advocates the diversity of threat and security object, the multi-dimensions of approaches and means, the comprehensiveness of power foundation.  Under the guidance of this concept, the SCO, led by the member state’s government, gives priority to the counter-terrorism cooperation and takes an active participation in the Afghanistan peace process and the reconstruction of society and economy.

In 2004, the SCO Tashkent summit signed the “Agreement among Member States of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization on Combating the Trafficking of Illegal Narcotics and Psychotropic Substances” (Referred to as the anti-drug agreement).The following year’s Astana summit clearly determined cooperation on combating drug-trafficking as priority, especially stressed the need to take part in the building of an “anti-drug belt” around Afghanistan, and then established the SCO-Afghanistan liaison mechanism which is not only conducive to control and fight against the drug trafficking crime but also beneficial to the international security cooperation including the developed countries and other international organizations. In March 27, 2009, the special conference on Afghanistan in Moscow under the SCO auspices published the “Statement on Joint Struggle against Terrorism, Illicit Drug Trafficking and Organized Crime of the SCO Member States and Islamic Republic of Afghanistan” and “the Plan of Action”.

Since the beginning of the SCO’s establishment, all parties have realized that only solving this region’s development issues can eliminate the social soils of the “three evils “ and drug trafficking crimes, thus the promotion of regional economic cooperation is been listing as an important cooperation direction, among which the energy cooperation is a key field for breakthrough. China has engaged in the oil and gas cooperation with Russia, Kazakhstan and other Central Asian countries since the mid of 1990s. After the founding of SCO, Chinese and Kazakhstan government spare no effort to promote the Sino-Kazakh pipeline project in the framework of SCO’s economic and trade cooperation, it effectively push forward the China-Central Asia-Russia multilateral energy cooperation within the framework of SCO. The set up of the “special working group of member states on energy cooperation” launched a series of specific exemplary cooperation on oil and gas. In the October 2008 Astana Prime Minister summit of SCO, the parties reached a consensus on the cooperation of saving energy, enhancing efficiency, developing clean energy and technology, utilizing renewable energy, and safeguarding energy security. In February 17, 2009 the third meeting of Sino-Russia energy talks reached a broad consensus on a package of cooperation projects such as Sino-Russia crude oil pipeline, long-term crude oil trade and loans, and signed a number of important documents, which including the long-term supply and marketing contracts and loan agreements among China Petroleum & Natural Gas Corporation, China National Development Bank, Rosnef and Russia State Oil Pipeline Transportation Company. It’s obviously that the energy cooperation between SCO member states provides a platform of dialogue and cooperation for the region’s energy producers, consumers and transit countries. It is conducive to the organic integration of member state’s economic cooperation and non-traditional security cooperation, helpful to the enhancement among member state’s mutual political trust and economic interdependence, beneficial to the Central Asian countries’ economic development, and lays a solid foundation for regional governance and comprehensive security.

Economic and financial security is also an important non-traditional security content in contemporary world. Since September 2008, the international financial crisis originated from the U.S. sub-prime mortgage crisis has imposed a serious impact upon people’s lives and economic development worldwide. It also poses a huge challenge for SCO member state’s economic, financial security and social security. In October 30, 2008, in order to maintain and promote member state’s economic and financial stability and development, the seventh Prime Minister meeting of SCO member states decided to advance trade and investment facilitation and regional economic integration by further coordination and cooperation, strengthen the role of SCO Business Council and Inter-bank Consortium, formulate common counter-crisis measures, practice multilateral economic and trade cooperation program plan .In June 15-16, 2009, the ninth meeting of the SCO Heads of State Council was held in Yekaterinburg, jointly cope with the global financial crisis and carry forward SCO member state’s economic and trade cooperation are placed as one the meeting’s important agenda. Joint Communiqué issued at the summit emphasizes the imperative necessity of bolstering economic and trade cooperation in the framework of the Organization, including developing the enormous potentiality of observer states and dialogue partners. The Joint Communiqué also noted the need to speed up the implementation of major projects which are designed to ensure the expansion of transport communication capabilities of the region and access to world markets, the construction of social infrastructure, the set up of modern international centers for logistics, trade and tourism, the establishment of new enterprises, the application of innovative technology, energy-saving technology and renewable energy technologies. Meanwhile the member states intend to make further efforts for the formation of a more fair, equal, all embracing and well-regulated international financial regime which takes into account a true balance of interests of all its participants and gives all states equal access to the advantages of globalization. Chinese President Hu Jintao addressed at the meeting that Chinese government will provide 10 billion US dollars of credit support to promote the SCO member states to cope with the global financial crisis.  This shows that the SCO is taking a series of pragmatic measures such as consultation and cooperation to jointly deal with the non-traditional security challenge imposed by the current global financial crisis.

In addition, the SCO has broaden and deepen the range of non-traditional security cooperation among member states on this region’s water usage, ecological environment protection, nuclear-free zone construction, social stability maintaining, emergent disaster relief and mutual help, information security etc..

Meanwhile, the SCO also cements this kind of dialogue and cooperation through the “spillover” effect. The “Declaration on the Establishment of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization” makes a clear-cut stand that “the SCO pursues a principle of non-alignment, non-targeting at other states and regions, opening up to the outside, is willing to engage in all kinds of dialogue, communication and cooperation”, and incorporates new members under the guidance of consensus. In 2004 the SCO launched observer mechanism, has granted observer status to Mongolia, Pakistan, Iran and India, as well as set up contact mechanism with Afghanistan. In October, 2007 the SCO signed Memorandum of Cooperation with the CIS Collective Security Treaty Organization, which is determined to jointly combat arms smuggling, drug trafficking and organized crime. In August, 2008 the “Regulation on the Status of Dialogue Partner of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization” was ratified at the heads of SCO member states summit in Dushanbe. Therefore, besides the member states system, the SCO has established an open, non-exclusive dialogue model by the cooperation framework of “observer plus dialogue partner” that lay a foundation for carrying out cooperation and establishing links with more and more countries and international organizations. This makes SCO more flexible and diversified in its approach and range of cooperation. In the near future, the SCO has the possibility to carry out exchange with US on counter-terrorism, cooperation with Japan on energy issue, dialogue with EU on non-traditional security.

It can be concluded from the abovementioned analysis that the vitality of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization is firmly base on the common demands of the Central Asian region after the cold war, on an overall consideration for regional public issues such as security stability, economic development, energy cooperation and ecological protection etc, as well as integrates the new outlook on security with neo-regionalism organically, namely, a kind of regionalism that integrates security and economy, domestic and international affairs, traditional international relations and new type of international relations in order to cope with the challenge of globalization and regionalization.

3.SCO’s Non-Traditional Security Cooperation and the Construction of a Harmonious Region

Peaceful development is China’s unswerving basic national policy. China’s peaceful development is inseparable from Asia, from the whole world, because it is one part of “the Asia Rise”, and can make a positive contribution to the international system’s transformation, the world’s harmony and prosperity. Shortly after the Chinese government put forward a national policy and guideline that build a harmonious society domestically, adhere to the road of peaceful development internationally, in 2005 the Chinese leader further brought forth a new concept of building a “harmonious world” which attracted the attention of the whole world, and then the initiatives of building a “harmonious Asia” and “harmonious region”.

The concept of “harmonious world” is rooted deeply in the 5000 year Chinese nation’s cultural tradition of “love harmony, value credit and build harmony, and cooperate with all nations” when conducting foreign communications. “Harmonious world” brought forth today as a diplomatic concept is not only an application and sublimation of the old-age historical tradition of Chinese civilization under the new historical circumstances, but also another major development in the diplomatic policy thinking of the country after the Five Principles of Coexistence and the New Outlook on Security of “mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality and cooperation”. As a theoretical sublimation of the Chinese government’s diplomatic tenet in the new era, the conception of “harmonious world” integrate organically a series of new concepts advocated in international community in recent years into a whole, including the new outlook on security, new outlook on development, new outlook on civilization, and new outlook on order. It takes three concepts of security, development and harmony as kernel, and composes them as the following three objectives, that is, “realize permanent peace and stability, and build a basic condition for an orderly international relations through common security; strive to expand the common interests of each country worldwide and eliminate the threat roots of global security through common development and prosperity, provide safeguard for an orderly international relations; realize common progress, harmony of different civilizations, and a just, rational international order through openness and tolerance. Among which, common security is the fundamental goal, common development is the key objective, building of a just and rational new international order is the ultimate goal”.  It’s obvious that build an everlasting peace, common development and harmonious world is not only the common aspiration of all peoples worldwide, but also China’s lofty goal of pursuing a peaceful development.

The building of a harmonious world needs the long-term concerted efforts of all human beings. Harmonious world’s construction would be impossible without the harmony of regions and countries. So China should build a harmonious society at home and explore the new regional cooperation system simultaneously, and then further the formation of world harmony by working together with other countries. A harmonious, stable, cooperative and developmental surrounding circumstance is the inevitable precondition for China’s peaceful development. Firstly we must strive for a stable and developmental neighborhood circumstance. “When one country’s survival and development is confined to its surrounding circumstances to a great extent, this regional factor will inevitably constitute an important factor for the country’s foreign strategy”.  “Being friendly to neighbors helps consolidate the country”. A peaceful, stable and developmental holistic atmosphere is, in the first place, an indispensable international environment for China to go smoothly towards a peaceful path of rise. This means that China’s peaceful development is surely, at the same time, a path of positively taking part in and promoting regional cooperation in Asia, building a harmonious Asia, harmonious region and harmonious surroundings jointly with neighboring nations. Since 1990s Chinese government has established a neighborhood diplomatic policy of “be kind to neighbors and be partners of neighbors”, has formulated and implemented a neighborhood foreign policy of “create a harmonious neighborhood, make neighbors feel secured and prosper together with neighbors”, has advanced the good neighborly relations and practical cooperation with neighboring states by bilateral and multilateral international cooperation mechanism, and has striven to build a regional environment with peace and stability, equality and trust, cooperation and win-win by actively engaging in regional cooperation. In which the non-traditional security cooperation among China, Russia and the Central Asian countries is the most important historical practice within the framework of SCO.

The practice of SCO security cooperation has made a significant exploration and experiment on such fields as guarantee the effective supply of regional public goods and the effective governance of regional public issues. Under the guidance of new outlook on security based on “mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality and mutual consultation”, the SCO guarantees its member state’s equal status in the process of cooperation from various aspects such as the principle of cooperation, operating mechanism and resolution procedures etc. The SCO has also improved its capability of providing regional public goods by gradually expanding and deepening non-traditional security cooperation, has offered strong institutional support for the governance of regional public issues, and demonstrates its positive role in promoting regional development, maintaining regional stability.

There is no doubt that the SCO member states have faced a series of non-traditional security issues, including the rampant “three evil forces” of terrorism, separatism and extremism, closely associated drug trafficking, arms smuggling, illegal migration and all kinds of organized crimes for more than ten years, which is not only the main security threat for the Central Asian countries but also a serious threat for both China and Russia’s security, peace, stability and development. Besides, the competition and conflict of these Central Asian Countries on exploration and development of oil and gas, land and water resources, the spread of ecological environmental pollution, the various contradictions and disputes between different ethnics, religions and regions, as well as a series of problems and deficiencies threatening social stability in the process of Central Asian countries’ transformation, have also posed a realistic and potential threat and challenge to this region’s peace and development to certain extent. From the above-mentioned we can see that there are still a lot of disharmonies existing in the Central Asian region.

Faced with these huge challenges, SCO takes member state’s fundamental interests into full account, transcends cold war thinking and conform to the principle of “peace, cooperation, openness and non-target at the third-party”, meanwhile, under the guidance of “Shanghai Spirit” of “mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality, consultation, respect for the diversity of civilizations and pursuit of common development”, it has basically fulfilled the constructions of legal framework and organizational structure, issued a number of cooperation documents on “ combat the three evils” and anti-drug, held a series of bilateral and multilateral joint anti-terror exercise, and effectively maintained and promoted this region’s security and stability; Moreover, SCO has embarked on international energy cooperation, advanced cooperative harness of ecological environment, and expanded the scope and depth of security cooperation by complementary economic and trade cooperation, and humanities exchange. Non-traditional security cooperation will continue to serve as a long-term orientation of development and important task of the SCO, and will bring great security space and development opportunities for member states. Through this new type of regional multilateral cooperation platform, all of the SCO member states including China will take the new outlook on security as guidance, jointly strive for promoting Central Asia and surrounding area’s stability and development with relevant international parties, build SCO into a regional security community with “more consolidated unity, closer cooperation, stronger action, more prominent effectiveness”, and further accumulate effective experiences, create favorable conditions, lay a solid foundation for the long-way-to go grant cause of constructing a harmonious Central Asia, harmonious Asia and eventually a harmonious world.

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