2022 SCO summit marks the beginning of a new era of global politics
Curtis Stone
Journalists work in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization Summit's press center in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, September 15, 2022. /CFP

Journalists work in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization Summit's press center in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, September 15, 2022. /CFP

Editor's note: Curtis Stone is an international relations expert, an editor and commentator. The article reflects the author's opinions and not necessarily the views of CGTN.

On September 15, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) is kicking off its 22nd heads-of-state summit in the ancient Silk Road city of Samarkand, Uzbekistan. All member states and observer countries will discuss key issues affecting its members and the region.

SCO is a large bloc with a growing voice on the world stage. All the member states together cover about 3.2 billion people and a quarter of the world's land area while making up about a quarter of the world's GDP. The aim of the bloc is to strengthen confidence and good-neighborly relations among member states and observer countries; promote effective cooperation in a wide range of fields; make joint efforts to keep and ensure peace, security, and stability in the region; and, move toward the establishment of a new, democratic, just, and rational political and economic international order.

To better understand the importance of the SCO summit, it is also important to understand how China and other like-minded countries view security and cooperation in general. China has stressed repeatedly that security should not come at the expense of other countries and has stressed that beefing up military blocs is not the answer to regional security. China has also called for an end to cold war-mentality along with respect for the legitimate security concerns of all countries.

Compared to an organization such as NATO, SCO is a completely different bloc, with a clear focus on cooperation and mutual respect. Unlike NATO, which is a product of the Cold War and the result of zero-sum thinking, SCO needs no enemy to justify its existence. It does not function to attack other states and international organizations, nor does it adopt the principle of collective defense, which is at the very heart of NATO's founding treaty. Instead, it simply aims to maximize cooperation and coordination between member states and other participants.

NATO, on the other hand, has proven to be a breeder of conflict and confrontation. It is an organization born and bred to defend and spread the values of the Western world at all costs and it has even expanded its focus to try to counter China's rise. As recent events have shown, NATO is a destructive force, with the reckless expansion of NATO that threatened Russia's security sparking a major conflict on the world stage. This shows the destructive power of a cold war-approach to international relations and shows that alternative solutions are necessary for today's world.

Staff members work at the NATO Headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, March 24, 2022. /Xinhua

Staff members work at the NATO Headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, March 24, 2022. /Xinhua

The faltering of the Western-centered and Western-led world order makes this year's SCO summit especially important for world peace and prosperity. Not only is it the first time in three years that SCO country leaders, including Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin, will come together in a face-to-face gathering to discuss everything that has arisen since the start of the global pandemic, but, more importantly, the summit comes amid an evolving geopolitical landscape marked with great upheaval. Given all that, the value of the summit in Samarkand takes on immense importance.

So, this year's SCO summit could mark the beginning of a major transformation, one in which non-Western countries take a more center-stage role in regional and global affairs and the intergovernmental organization itself becomes stronger and better prepared to turn today's challenges into tomorrow's opportunities.

Also, it is more important than ever for member states to promote their own ideas and to chart their own path forward, because the only way out of this dangerous spiral of distrust is through constructive dialogue and multilateral cooperation, which is exactly what the SCO platform provides. As President Xi has stressed, today's world is experiencing profound changes unseen in a century, and these changes provide an opportune time for major transformation.

In today's world, we all rise and fall together. No country can stand alone, and no country can dominate the world. And so, to truly make the world a better place, all countries must work toward achieving common security and prosperity and avoid creating a cycle of tragedy.

As history and current events show, when countries act according to their own self-interest, the result is tragedy, but when countries function as a community with a shared future, the result is mutual benefit. This is the main reason the SCO summit is so important. As a bloc based on mutual benefit and trust, SCO is set to play a positive and constructive role in promoting peace and prosperity.

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