China prepares to boost Shanghai bloc to counter the West

Founded in 2001 by Beijing and Moscow as an economic and security grouping, it includes India, Pakistan and several Central Asian states

Published - July 11, 2024 09:42 am IST

China’s President Xi Jinping with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin at the SCO summit in Astana on July 3.

China’s President Xi Jinping with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin at the SCO summit in Astana on July 3. | Photo Credit: AFP

China is seeking to strengthen its leadership of an expanding bloc of nations it sees as a potential counterweight to the world order led by the United States.

Leaders of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) member states met last week in Kazakhstan, with President Xi Jinping calling on strategic ally Russia and other partners to “firmly support each other”.

Founded in 2001 by Beijing and Moscow as an economic and security grouping, it includes India, Pakistan and several Central Asian states. It expanded last year to include Iran and this year welcomed Belarus. The talks in Astana took place ahead of this week’s NATO summit in Washington, where the Western military alliance is marking its 75th anniversary and reaffirming its support for Ukraine. In stark contrast, the SCO’s joint declaration made no mention of Russia’s war in Ukraine.

With China assuming the annual rotating chair of the SCO, analysts expect it will work to integrate the two new members and boost collaboration across its vast remit — bolstering, in turn, its own leadership of the alliance.

“The SCO is increasingly defining itself as an alternative vision for world order, juxtaposed against the traditional postwar order led by the United States and other Western powers,” said Bates Gill, a senior fellow for Asian security at the U.S.-based National Bureau of Asian Research.

The bloc’s expansion to include new members could be seen as echoing China’s and Russia’s repeated calls for their vast region to resist Western influence.

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