The Shanghai Cooperation Organization: A Fading Star?


The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) stands at a pivotal point in its history. On the one hand, the growing ties between Russia and China as well as the withdrawal of the Western powers from Central Asia and Afghanistan could provide it with more cohesive leadership and more opportunities to become Eurasia’s dominant security institution. On the other hand, the SCO faces competition from the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) and the new Eurasian Union as well as the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building in Asia (CICA), a body that has labored in the SCO’s shadow but has recently attracted the interest of China, historically the SCO’s main champion.

To the surprise of many, including its members, the SCO rapidly became one of Eurasia’s most influential multinational institutions. The SCO’s original purpose was to regularize relations between China and its four, new, post-Soviet neighbors following the Soviet Union’s breakup and the end of the Sino-Soviet military confrontation, which sealed the borders between China and its western neighbors. After a series of annual heads-of-state summits among these “Shanghai Five,” the participating countries decided to formalize these ties in 2001 by creating a permanent organization and extending their initial border demilitarization talks to encompass broader security, economic, and other regional cooperation in Central Asia. At times during the mid-2000s, the media speculated that the SCO might become an “anti-NATO” bloc of pro-Moscow authoritarian states contesting regional primacy with the Western democracies. The SCO became one of the largest (in terms of geographic size and population) regional organizations with a most comprehensive agenda. The SCO has massive economic potential. Its members’ combined GDP ranks only behind the EU and the United States. The SCO’s full members (China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan) and formal observers (Afghanistan, India, Iran, Pakistan, and Mongolia) include some of the world’s leading energy exporters and importers, as well as major military powers (several with nuclear weapons). The SCO’s pivotal location means that its policies and developments could have important effects on neighboring regions in Asia, the Middle East, and even Europe.

During its first years, the SCO developed core institutional structures including regular heads-of-state summits, meetings of foreign and other ministers, and a Regional Anti-Terrorism Structure (RATS) in Tashkent and a Secretariat in Beijing. The SCO has also developed contacts with other important multilateral organizations, including obtaining observer status in the UN General Assembly and establishing formal ties with several UN agencies as well as the CSTO, the Commonwealth of Independent States, and other multinational groups, most recently the CICA.1 Yet, to all appearances, the SCO has lost momentum and even a sense of strategic purpose in the last few years. The organization’s divided members, jealous of their sovereignty, have declined to augment the institution’s independent power or resources. The governments have remained deadlocked over the SCO’s appropriate security functions and ambitions, suitable energy and other non-security dimensions, how to manage the Western withdrawal from Afghanistan, and whether to expand the number of full members–and which states should receive this status. The two most powerful members, China and Russia, devote more attention to their relations with individual Central Asian states than to their SCO-mediated multilateral ties, though they strive to give their bilateral activities a multilateral gloss.

Economic Sub-Performance

The SCO has made little progress in developing the organization’s collective economic potential and promoting economic cooperation among its members. The 2003 Multilateral Economic and Trade Cooperation Program set several general objectives, such as working toward the free movement of goods, services, capital, and technology by 2020. During the 2003-2004 period, the SCO governments established a series of institutions to help implement this program and other projects. These included a Development Fund, Business Council, and Inter-Bank Consortium. Members have regularly under-resourced these institutions and other joint economic initiatives, constraining their potential. By international standards, the SCO’s economic bodies remain weak.2 Since they lack independent sources of funding, they must rely on money provided by the individual member states for each project. SCO members still impose many trade and investment barriers against one another and are more open to economic engagement with non-Eurasian partners than with each other. They often pursue diverging internal and external foreign economic policies, with differences most evident in their varying commitment to government control of economic activities and their relations to the WTO or the Customs Union established by Russia, Kazakhstan, and Belarus. The wealthier members, such as China, have preferred to channel financial and development assistance on a bilateral basis, which gives them greater influence than operating through the SCO. The PRC has provided billions of dollars of loans and development aid to fellow SCO members, but these funds are often tied to purchasing Chinese products and services, building infrastructure to develop and transport their natural resources to China, and otherwise promoting Beijing’s national interests under the rubric of the SCO. Indeed, the organization’s economic activities consist primarily in China lending money or supporting infrastructure projects initiated in Beijing or by other multilateral financial institutions such as the Asian Development Bank. Excessive customs duties, the absence of a free trade zone or common WTO membership, and Eurasia’s undeveloped transportation, communications, and other essential infrastructure further impede intra-SCO commerce. Another problem is that the Central Asian governments strive to manage trade flows to secure monopoly rents, distribute patronage, and achieve other elite benefits even if it reduces overall trade and distorts commerce and investment.3

Russian-Chinese commercial competition in Central Asia further impedes SCO-wide economic initiatives. Soon after the organization’s establishment, the Chinese government began calling for establishing an FTA and then a comprehensive common market within the SCO that would align members’ trade, customs, tax, immigration, and other policies. These multilateral initiatives would have strengthened China’s economic linkages with Central Asia since the PRC was the only SCO member then excluded from the Moscow-led Eurasian Economic Community.4 Russian officials, fearful that an inflow of cheap Chinese goods and services as well as capital-rich Chinese state-owned enterprises would drive Russian businesses from the region, argued that economic integration among SCO countries should occur gradually, over the course of decades—conveniently preserving Moscow’s economic advantages in the interim.5 The Russian government, which was more badly affected by the recent global economic crisis than the PRC, declined to join Beijing in 2009 to co-fund a SCO stabilization fund and has been unenthusiastic about Chinese efforts to create a multibillion-dollar SCO development bank.6 A Beijing-backed agreement on road transport has been similarly stalled, allegedly because “a member state failed to have the documents ready” at the 2013 SCO prime ministers’ summit in Tashkent.7 Russia has sought to compensate for China’s growing economic presence in Central Asia through bilateral economic ties and alternative multilateral economic institutions such as the trilateral Customs Union and more recently the Eurasian Union—institutions that exclude China and are dominated by Moscow. Thwarted within the SCO, China has, nonetheless, achieved great success in building its economic ties bilaterally.8

Differences among SCO members have even more seriously limited its collective energy activities. Russia has fought a rearguard action to sustain control over Central Asian energy production and pipelines, as China has thrown around enormous sums and package deals to secure growing access to the Kazakhstan’s oil, Uzbekistan’s uranium, and Turkmenistan’s natural gas. The Russian government wants to see a more unified SCO energy bloc, which Moscow could dominate through its powerful state-run energy companies, often run by former or future Russian government officials. Their Chinese colleagues listen politely but continue pursuing bilateral energy deals that circumvent Russian and Western competitors. The SCO’s two largest observers also diverge regarding energy issues, with Iran favoring and India resisting high energy prices. Meanwhile, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan feud over regional hydropower resources, with Uzbekistan impeding rail shipments of equipment that Tajikistan needs to construct a dam upstream of Uzbekistan.9

Recent fighting between Kyrgyz and Tajik border guards has threatened Chinese-promoted energy pipelines through their territories—the latest example of how regional rivalries, security concerns, and other issues disrupt energy and economic cooperation among SCO members.10 Another problem confronting the SCO is that Beijing’s plans to strengthen economic ties with Central Asia pivot on Xinjiang, a region whose pervasive ethnic strife threatens to derail Chinese efforts to engage with Central Asia.11 Overall, the organization has thus far provided only a minor forum for energy dialogues, comparable to those that occur within the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).

Foreign-Policy Divisions

At one point, it looked like the SCO might evolve into a modern-day version of the former Moscow-led Warsaw Treaty Organization, aiming to counter the Western democracies and buttress authoritarian governments threatened by regime change. As Sergey Radchenko notes elsewhere in this issue of The Asan Forum, despite the realpolitik logic behind the Russia-China post-Cold War rapprochement, Moscow and Beijing have found solidarity in their fear of Western-supported popular revolutions against their regimes.12 SCO members insist on “non-interference” in internal affairs and rail against perceived encroachments on their national sovereignty. After election improprieties precipitated “color revolutions” in Georgia and Ukraine, the SCO formed its own teams of election observers in 2005. They have regularly certified even questionable elections conducted by member governments. For instance, in Tajikistan’s 2006 presidential election, the SCO monitors challenged the critical findings of the OSCE.13 Russia’s escalating angst at such social revolutions was in evidence at the recent Moscow International Security Conference, attended by most of its senior national security officials as well as foreign officials.14 But Chinese authors, whose country had never been part of the Warsaw Pact, have also described the SCO as a mutual protection mechanism for its illiberal regimes. China Daily commentator Wang Yusheng wrote, “a significant achievement of the SCO is that the member states successfully defended themselves against the ‘color revolution’ incited by the neo-conservative idealists of the United States.” Wang explains that, “by offering each other essential help and exchanging key information, the members of the SCO have successfully navigated all the potential risks and challenges that have arisen and ensured that they can each develop in their own chosen way.”15 However, although SCO leaders agree that the organization should defend its member governments against terrorist or separatist threats, they have deadlocked over whether to respond collectively to serious but nonviolent domestic challenges such as mass protests. Meanwhile, human rights groups express concern that the SCO member governments apply an excessively broad definition of security threats, treating peaceful advocates of political change, regional autonomy, or religious freedom as terrorists, separatists, or extremists under the PRC-promoted “three evil forces” concept.16

Since multiple voices often carry more weight than speaking alone, the member governments try to align their foreign policy statements. Collective declarations typically back the positions of Russia and China, including on non-Eurasian issues. They affirm the exclusive right of the UN Security Council to authorize the use of force, praise multipolarity and democracy in international relations, and take other sideswipes at the United States.17 Even so, the SCO’s focus remains limited to Central Asia, the organization’s heartland, rather than other regions, where its members are more likely to hold divergent views (such as with Russia’s forceful seizures of Georgian and more recently Ukrainian territory). With only two standing organs (the RATS and Secretariat), the SCO is much less developed than other regional security organizations. It could profitably develop its crisis management capabilities, whose weakness perhaps accounted for the organization’s paralysis during the July 2010 crisis in Kyrgyzstan.

This constraint applies even to nearby Afghanistan. Despite the imperative of bolstering that country’s economic and security conditions, the SCO has until now mostly issued joint declarations and shared intelligence about narcotics and terrorism emanating from Afghanistan into Central Asia. By making Afghanistan a formal observer and Turkey a dialogue partner at its 2012 summit, the SCO was better positioned to address Afghanistan’s regional security and economic integration. The ongoing Western military withdrawal from Afghanistan and Central Asia as well as Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s outreach efforts to Russia and China have offered the SCO an opportunity to put its newfound capabilities to good use.18 Even so, it has yet to allocate new resources or launch initiatives regarding that country. The members are divided. Russia is trying to strengthen its security ties with the Afghan government and work with local ethnic mini-states in northern Afghanistan near Central Asia designed, as in the 1990s, to serve as a buffer between the Taliban, whose strength is in the Pashtun regions of southern Afghanistan, and neighboring Central Asian countries.19 Not content to be part of this “northern wall,” Uzbekistan continues to promote a distinct “6+3” peace plan based on Afghanistan’s integration with Central Asia and an expanded UN role. China is hedging its options, engaging with the Taliban through Pakistan’s security services, its longstanding clients. What all these approaches have in common is a minimal role assigned to the SCO. This January, Russia’s envoy to the organization stated that, “The SCO is not prepared to assume the responsibility of ensuring security in Afghanistan itself.” The following month, SCO Secretary General Dmitry Mezentev declared that he envisioned the organization’s role in Afghanistan as primarily consisting of its participation “in international efforts to seek desirable solutions to Afghanistan’s security issues.”21 The next month deputy director of Russia’s Federal Security Service Sergei Smirnov,said that the members will “take measures for the defense of their countries against terrorist threats in connection with the withdrawal from Afghanistan of the international military contingent,” without mentioning any SCO activity within Afghanistan other than “monitoring the borders and interior” of the country.22

Minimal Membership and Deliverables

The organization’s role in Afghanistan would increase if Pakistan, India, or Iran realized its aspirations to become full SCO members. In July, Sergei Ivanov, head of the Russian presidential staff, remarked that, “Many countries would like to join the SCO, there is a long line standing.”23 Unfortunately for them, the organization has suffered from protracted expansion gridlock. It has never invited another country to become a full member since its inception in 2001, when the six founding governments stated, “On the basis of consensus, it shall admit as its new members those countries which recognise the cooperation purposes and tasks within the framework of the organization…and whose joining will facilitate the realisation of cooperation.” In 2004 and 2005, Mongolia, India, Iran, and Pakistan were accepted as observers. A decade passed before members decided to admit another formal observer, Afghanistan. The leaders attending that 2012 summit in Beijing also let Turkey join Belarus and Sri Lanka as formal “dialogue partners,” which have fewer rights and privileges than observers. Members have declined entreaties by Pakistan, India, Iran, and other countries to become full members. Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Belarus, and Sri Lanka all unsuccessfully applied to become formal SCO observers the following year.25 For years, the decreasingly plausible excuse that more time is needed to finalize the legal procedures to admit more members masks collective angst about how expansion might weaken an organization already lacking the internal cohesion found in strong, multilateral institutions such as NATO and the EU.26 Differences in geographic expanse, population size, military power, and economic resources have long made it difficult for members to negotiate and apply collective measures. SCO officials fear that membership enlargement would worsen these problems. “The issue of SCO expansion is important to us,” explained Secretary General Bolat Nurgaliyev in April 2008, “and our organization is open to cooperation with other organizations and associations, but maintaining its efficiency must remain the key factor while considering bids for SCO membership.”27 The SCO has tried to expand the opportunities for observers and other interested parties to participate, but without much appreciable effect.

Another problem is a lack of deliverables. The organization has difficulty transforming words into deeds. The members, individually and collectively, regularly announce new goals and initiatives, but there is little evidence that the goals are met or the initiatives ever implemented. The SCO members have never authorized a collective security operation, even when, as during the ethnic riots in Kyrgyzstan in 2010 or with Afghanistan in recent years, many governments might have welcomed one. When China, Russia, and the other members do adopt concrete agreements, the need to reconcile conflicting national laws, regulations, and standards has often delayed their execution—even with respect to such a critical and widely embraced function as counterterrorism. Most often, the SCO serves as a weak multilateral framework that members use to coordinate regional policies and pursue individual “micro-agendas.”28 The essential ethos of the SCO is that states have the right to limit their participation in its activities and, thanks to a consensus decision making rule, can easily block collective measures, though members can and do pursue such initiatives through bilateral and unilateral policies.29 SCO gatherings typically have more important side meetings to address issues outside the organization’s purview.30 Most often, accords adopted under the organization’s auspices consist primarily of bilateral deals, with the organization merely providing a convenient negotiating venue. One can reasonably ask whether many of the policies and projects its members have undertaken nominally under SCO auspices would have occurred even if the organization had never existed.

The Wobbly Beijing-Moscow Axis

The relationship between China and Russia is the axis holding the SCO together. The two share critical interests in Central Asia—preventing social revolutions, combatting transnational terrorism, limiting Western influence, and constraining the local elites—that they can best advance in partnership rather than through rivalry. Yet, differences regarding the SCO, while ebbing and flowing, have long proved disruptive. The Chinese have often seen the SCO as “their” organization, endowing it with almost mystical qualities. President Xi Jinping is but the latest leader to perceive a “Shanghai Spirit” of “mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality, consultation [and] respect,” underpinning the organization’s work and differentiating the SCO from other multinational institutions.31 He has continued to pursue an economically dominant agenda centered on reviving the Silk Road using railroads, highways, pipelines, and other modern transportation and communications networks.32 Xi has also followed his predecessors in advocating establishing a SCO Development Bank, based in China and with shares allocated on the basis of relative financial contributions, to develop regional infrastructure, and an energy club that would benefit a resource rich but energy needy Chinese nation.33 Russians have not overtly opposed China’s growing economic presence, which can strengthen local economies and lessen resource demands on Moscow. Nonetheless, policymakers have thwarted major Chinese economic initiatives within the SCO and promoted competing structures, designed partly to constrain them.

Chinese officials still profess their support for the SCO. Marking the tenth anniversary of the RATS in June 2014, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying singled out the value of counterterrorism within the SCO and urged greater cooperation.34 The following month, Foreign Minister Wang Yi offered a five-point proposal that would include creating a “fund-raising mechanism” and further membership enlargement.35 With their ambitions for the SCO frustrated, however, the PRC has recently focused more attention on the CICA, an alternative institution for realizing its regional objectives. China assumed chairmanship of the CICA, a multinational forum designed to promote peace, security, and stability in Asia, this May, when Shanghai hosted the CICA’s fourth summit. Before then, China had not prioritized the CICA, a Kazakhstan initiative that was chaired by Turkey until this year. Unlike the earlier summits, this one was attended by senior representatives of dozens of foreign countries, including all the SCO members, and of international organizations. In his keynote address, Xi proposed a new Asian concept of “common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security” based on “peace, development, and win-win cooperation” in which differences and disputes between states were resolved through dialogue and negotiations.36 Xi said, “China will fulfill the responsibilities of CICA chairman and work with other sides to improve the status and role of CICA, to take Asian security cooperation to a higher level.” To this effect, he “called for efforts to enhance the capacity and institutional building of the CICA,” specifically citing the need to improve its secretariat.37 In addition, Xi proposed a “defense consultation mechanism” and a “security response center” for major emergencies.38 He also called for establishing a non-governmental exchange network in which NGOs and other CICA parties can engage independent of their governments.39 The goals of the SCO and the CICA are harmonious with each other and the new security concept since they both promote Asian prosperity and security to Beijing’s benefit. For China, the CICA shares another advantage with the SCO—both are new organizations that exclude the United States and Japan, giving China both the opportunity and the means to be a rule maker, but its more extensive membership and Russia’s lesser status compared with its co-leadership role in the SCO reduces Moscow’s ability to block initiatives.

Meanwhile, PRC policymakers have limited the SCO’s military capabilities and activities, keeping the organization focused on fighting terrorism and other transnational threats and limiting its institutional cooperation with the Moscow-led CSTO. Whereas a few years ago many observers thought the SCO would become a rival NATO and dominate Eurasian security in the same way that NATO dominates the European security environment, recent SCO Peace Mission military exercises have scaled back the number of troops and other activities. The organization has been emphasizing counterterrorism rather than a traditional defense role, mostly intelligence-sharing and law enforcement. The Taliban resurgence in Afghanistan, renewal of Islamist violence in Xinjiang and some Central Asian countries, and fears about how the Arab Spring disorders, especially the war in Syria, could spill over into the SCO region has helped refocus the organization on counterterrorism.40 For example, the RATS last year established a special unit to help China counter external support from Central Asia to the Uighur terrorists in Xinjiang. Zhang Xinfeng, director of the RATS executive committee, explained that, “Terrorist attacks in Xinjiang are closely related to the activities of terrorist, separatist and extremist forces in Central Asia, so joint anti-terrorist efforts from the member countries are crucial to China’s stability, and it is a long-term mission.”41 Reaching agreement on counterterrorism is easier than achieving a consensus on more divisive security and economic issues. Russia and China are leading this drive, without any seeming objection from other SCO members.42 To address more conventional security challenges, Russian officials have focused on augmenting the CSTO, which includes all the SCO members except China. Supported most closely by Kazakhstan, the CSTO has acquired increasing capabilities and legal authorities in recent years.43

The crisis in Ukraine may lead Russia to relax some of its constraints on the SCO’s further development, especially under its upcoming chairmanship of the organization. Even before this crisis, many Russians agreed with Deputy Premier Dmitry Rogozin’s conclusion that, “All our prospects lie not with the West but with the East…All the future history of the 21st century will be there.”44 With relations with the West ruined, Russia has amplified its pivot toward Asia and courting of Beijing.45 The CSTO is also strengthening ties with the SCO.46 Given its own souring relations with the United States, the Xi administration has modified China’s longstanding opposition to foreign military intervention on behalf of ethnic separatists, seen in 2008 when Beijing declined to endorse Russia’s de facto annexation of Georgia’s separatist regions, and titled toward accepting Moscow’s stance over Ukraine.47 But, as Jeffrey Mankoff points out in this issue, there are inherent limits to the willingness of both countries to align with the other against the West, no matter how uneasy they might be about US support for social revolutions and their regional rivals.48

Mutual Reassurance

On balance, the two powers cooperate more than they compete in Central Asia.49 In comparison with the much more competitive dynamics each of these countries faces elsewhere with the United States and its allies, contemporary Central Asia stands out for the lower level of “great game” dynamics than in the past.50 The organization helps to moderate rivalries by serving as a reassurance mechanism for members. Its documents and statements eschew policies that harm others’ security or interfere in one another’s internal affairs, allowing members considerable freedom of action at home. In the declaration announcing the SCO’s formation, they pledge to promote “mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality, consultation, respect for multicivilisations, striving for common development” and other values. The “Shanghai Convention on Combating Terrorism, Separatism, and Extremism,” signed at the founding summit in 2001, mandates cooperation against regional “terrorism” (broadly defined to include two other “evil forces” of ethno-separatism and political “extremism”).51 The fifth anniversary declaration issued in 2006 employs the kind of language found in standard non-aggression pacts as well as in the 2001 China-Russian friendship treaty. Members pledge not to join alliances or otherwise take actions that would “allow their territories to be used to undermine the sovereignty, security or territorial integrity of the other member states.” The fifth anniversary statement also provides for immediate consultations during “emergencies that threaten regional peace, stability, and security.”52 Article IV of the SCO friendship and cooperation treaty, signed in 2007, likewise affirms that, “The Contracting Parties shall not participate in alliances or organizations directed against other Contracting Parties and shall not support any actions hostile to other Contracting Parties.”53 It also affirms that they will not seek to enforce ideological conformity or other political principles among members. “The Contracting Parties shall respect each other’s right to choose ways of political, economic, social and cultural development,” Article 3 reads, “taking into account the historical background and national peculiarities of each State.”54 The SCO sponsors various joint security activities and exercises designed to assure that fellow members offer support against transnational threats, especially terrorism. Such confidence-building measures provide mutual assurance.

Most importantly, the SCO functions as a framework to reassure and constrain Moscow and Beijing about each other’s overlapping activities in Central Asia. The PRC sees the SCO as a means to expand its influence in Central Asia without alarming Moscow, whereas Russia values the SCO as a mechanism to monitor and restrain that expansion. Other governments prefer working through the SCO because, unlike the CSTO or Eurasian Union, it is not dominated by Russia. With the Putin administration pressing Central Asian states to join the union, they will be all the more eager to have a strong counterbalancing institution. At the same time, the membership of Russia and others in the SCO allows each Central Asian government to manage its relations with China multilaterally, diluting Beijing’s superior size and strength. Most Central Asian leaders consider the PRC less as an alternative great power patron to Russia than as a supplementary partner to assist them in moderating Moscow’s predominance as well as furthering their economic development. China has exploited this opportunity, but cautiously, seeking to avoid alarming either Russia or the Central Asian countries by focusing on economic expansion and constraining its military presence. It has not challenged the growing security role of the CSTO, sold major weapons to Central Asian militaries that traditionally have purchased arms from Russia, or established a military base in the region. Yet, the continuing low-key Sino-Russian rivalry minimizes the risk of the SCO institutionalizing a China-Russia condominium, leading them to embrace the organization as well.

The value of these multiple reassurances means that the SCO will remain a viable institution despite its modest results and constrained potential due to the mutual vetoes that handicap its ability to adapt to changing regional circumstances and advance mutual interests. This state of benign mutual assurance within the SCO persists primarily because Beijing still assigns less strategic importance to the region than does Moscow and because Russia pursues many policies favorable to Chinese interests, such as curbing regional terrorism, countering the resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan, and promoting the growth of Central Asian energy production. China’s growing interest in securing Central Asian oil and gas as well as pursuing other commercial opportunities—areas still dominated by Russian entities, sometimes through local proxies—could lead Beijing to reconsider its policy of regional deference at some point. The Central Asian countries would then become a more explicit target of China-Russia rivalry, A downturn in China-Russia relations, or a loss of Beijing’s confidence in Moscow’s ability to maintain security in Central Asia, which would jeopardize core Chinese economic and security interests, could lead China to abandon its policy of regional deference and pursue a more assertive regional security role, either through the CICA or through bilateral initiatives with regional partners.

1.The CICA Secretariat signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Secretariat of the SCO.

2.Sun Zhuangzhi and Zhang Ning, “Debate: SCO,” China Daily, June 13, 2011,

3.Kathleen Collins, “Economic and Security Regionalism among Patrimonial Authoritarian Regimes: The Case of Central Asia,” Europe-Asia Studies 61, no. 2 (2009): 249–281; and Roy Alison, “Virtual Regionalism, Regional Structures and Regime Security in Central Asia,” Central Asian Survey 27, no. 2 (2008): 185–202.

4.Joint Communique of the Council of the Governmental Heads (Prime Ministers) of Shanghai Cooperation Organization Member States, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China, September 23, 2004,

5.Igor Tomberg, “Energy Outcome of SCO Meeting in Dushanbe,” RIA Novosti, September 20, 2006, /20060920/54104304.html.

6.Alexander Cooley, “Russia and the Recent Evolution of the SCO: Issues and Challenges for US Policy,” in The Policy World Meets Academia: Designing U.S. Policy Toward Russia, ed. Timothy Colton, Timothy Frye, and Robert Legvold (Cambridge, MA: American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 2010), 17; and “Proposed Study of Establishment of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization Development Bank,” December 1, 2010,

7.“SCO prime ministers’ meeting injects impetus into practical cooperation,” Xinhua, November 30, 2013,

8.Jacob Zenn, “China and the SCO: Dead Wood but a Good Platform,” China Brief 13, no. 20 (2013),

9.Joshua Kucera, “Tajikistan’s Folly?: The Rogun Dam,” June 10, 2013,

10.Michael Lelyveld, “Central Asia Clash Mars China Gas Plan,” Radio Free Asia, July 28, 2014,

11.James Leibold, “Is China’s “Go West” Strategy Doomed?” The National Interest, May 28, 2014,

12.Sergey Radchenko, “The Legacy of the 1980s for Russia’s Relations in Northeast Asia in the 2010s,” The Asan Forum 2, no. 4 (2014),

13.“Government May Heed Criticisms of Election,” Institute for War and Peace Reporting, November 10, 2006,

14.“Color revolutions threaten global stability – Russian Defense Minister,” The Voice of Russia,

15.Wang Yusheng, “SCO shows the Shanghai Spirit,” China Daily, September 12, 2013,

16.“Implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in Kazakhstan,” Human Rights in China, June 3, 2011,

17.See for example last year’s summit communique as described in Zhu Ninghzhu, “SCO Leaders Vow to Jointly Tackle Global Threats,” Xinhua, September 13, 2013,; and “China strives for SCO development, FMs urge bigger UN role,” Xinhua, August 1, 2014,

18.“Karzai calls fighting ‘terrorism’ a shared responsibility at SCO Summit,” Tolo News, September 14, 2013,

19.Joshua Kucera, “Russia, Uzbekistan Floating Plans To Create ‘Buffer State’ In Afghanistan,” EurasiaNet, April 4, 2014,

20.“SCO Won’t Take Over From NATO in Afghanistan – Envoy,” RIA Novosti, January 15, 2014,–Envoy.html.

21.Xiaob, Sun, “SCO ‘active’ in seeking solution for Afghan security problems,” Global Times, February 14, 2014,

22.“Vyvod mezhdunarodnykh voisk iz Afganistana vynudit ShOS priniat’ mery po zashchite ot terroristov,” ИТАР-ТАСС, March 28, 2014,

23.“Potential SCO members should sign earlier agreements,” Itar-Tass, July 9, 2014,

24.“Declaration on Establishment of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation,” China Daily, June 15, 2001,

25.“Meeting of Council of Heads of State of CSO Countries opens in Bishkek,” The Voice of Russia, September 13, 2013,

26.Amit R. Saksena, “The Shanghai Cooperation Organization and Central Asian Security,” The Diplomat, July 25, 2014,

27.“Shanghai Six Regional Group Considers Iran in Expansion Plans,” RIA Novosti, April 15, 2008,

28.Matthew Crosston, “The Strange Case of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization,” New Eastern Outlook, June 6, 2014,

29.Alica Kizekova, “The Shanghai Cooperation Organization and Regional Chessboards,” Russian Analytical Digest, no. 152 (July 25, 2014),

30.“Chinese FM meets Russian, Kyrgyz, Uzbek counterparts on ties,” Xinhua, July 31, 2014,

31.Tyler Toney, “The Shanghai Cooperation Organization: China’s NATO,” The Diplomat, September 11, 2013,

32.Lauren Dickey, “China Takes Steps Toward Realizing Silk Road Ambitions,” China Brief, June 4, 2014,

33.“Chinese president raises proposal on SCO cooperation,” Xinhua, September 13, 2013,

34.“China calls for SCO security efforts,” Xinhua, June 18, 2014,

35.“China strives for SCO development, FMs urge bigger UN role,” Xinhua, August 1, 2014,

36.Xi Jinping, “New Asian Security Concept For New Progress in Security Cooperation,” Chinese Foreign Ministry, May 21, 2014,

37.China’s Xi Proposes Security Concept for Asia.” China Daily, May 21, 2014,

38.Louise Watt, “China pursues influence, resources abroad but treads carefully to avoid straining ties with US,” US News and World Report, May 22, 2014,

39.CICA summit to reshape Asian security with new concept,” Xinhua, May 22, 2014,

40.“SCO holds security council secretaries meeting in Tajikistan,” Xinhua, April 17, 2014,

41.“China to boost anti-terror cooperation with Central Asia,” Reuters, June 10, 2014,

42.“Russia, China Should Boost Potential of Regional Organizations–Russian Security Council,” RIA Novosti, June 6, 2014,

43.Richard Weitz, “The Collective Security Treaty Organization: Past Struggles and Future Prospects,” Russian Analytical Digest, no. 152 (July 25, 2014),

44.“Russia looks East not West for future prosperity,” The Siberian Times, May 6, 2014,

45.Feng Yujun, “My View on Contemporary China-Russia Relations,” The Asan Forum 2, no. 4 (2014),

46.Joshua Kucera, “CSTO To Cut Contacts With NATO, Increase Ties With SCO,” EurasiaNet, April 24, 2014,

47.Shannon Tiezzi, “China Backs Russia on Ukraine,” The Diplomat, March 4, 2014,

48.Jeffrey Mankoff, “The Ukraine Crisis and the Future of Sino-Russian Relations,” The Asan Forum 2, no. 4, (2014),

49.Zhao Huasheng, “China-Russia Relations in Central Asia,” The Asan Forum 1, no. 3 (2013),

50.Alexander Cooley, Great Games, Local Rules: The New Great Power Contest in Central Asia (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012).

51.“The Shanghai Convention on Combating Terrorism, Separatism and Extremism,” Shanghai Cooperation Organization, June 15, 2001,

52.“Declaration on 5th Anniversary of SCO [full text],” SCO Shanghai Summit Website, June 15, 2006,

53.“Treaty on Long-Term Good-Neighborliness, Friendship and Cooperation Between the Member States of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization,” Shanghai Cooperation Organization, August 16, 2007, Article 4,

54.“Treaty on Long-Term Good-Neighborliness, Friendship and Cooperation Between the Member States of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.”

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