Phases in the Development of the Shanghai Co-Operation Organization

Authored by: Chien-Peng Chung

Routledge Handbook of Asian Regionalism

Print publication date:  November  2011
Online publication date:  March  2012

Print ISBN: 9780415580540
eBook ISBN: 9780203803608
Adobe ISBN: 9781136634734


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The Shanghai Co-operation Organization (SCO) is a multilateral organization through which regional states are involved in managing security-related aspects pertaining to Eurasia in general and Central Asia in particular. Since the SCO’s formation, it has been an evolving institution with shifting emphases in its orientation at different phases of its development, four of which can be distinguished. During the initial Shanghai-Five phase of the organization leading up to the formation of the SCO, governments of member states were predominantly concerned about exploring ways to ensure border security and combat forces that were promoting terrorism, separatism and religious fundamentalism. For the second phase of the SCO, although the consolidation of institutional norms and rules was an outstanding feature, the organization began to pay as much attention to effecting joint infrastructure development among member states as to co-operation in fighting terrorism. Issues regarding membership expansion, opium-smuggling from Afghanistan, and energy co-operation were mooted during the third phase of SCO development amidst a pervading mood of anti-Americanism. During the fourth and current phase of SCO evolution, although Afghanistan is still a major area of concern to the organization, unresolved differences among its Central Asian member states have meant that their individual relationships with the People’s Republic of China (PRC), and the Russian Federation, have become increasingly prominent. As such, the SCO can be said to be facing both opportunities and challenges at the present moment and for the foreseeable future.

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