New International Order: Intro to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization

Date: 18 September 2022

Author: Michael C.

Tags: Asia-Pacific, Internationalism

On September 25th, 1919, 28th President of the United States Woodrow Wilson delivered an impassioned speech before an audience of 3,000 in the town of Pueblo, Colorado. It would be the last in his speaking tour promoting the United States joining the League of Nations.

“Again and again, my fellow citizens,” he cried, “mothers who lost their sons in France have come to me and, taking my hand, have shed tears upon it not only, but they have added, ‘God bless you, Mr. President!’ Why, my fellow citizens, should they pray God to bless me? I advised the Congress of the United States to create the situation that led to the death of their sons. I ordered their sons overseas. I consented to their sons being put in the most difficult parts of the battle line, where death was certain, as in the impenetrable difficulties of the forest of Argonne. Why should they weep upon my hand and call down the blessings of God upon me? Because they believe that their boys died for something that vastly transcends any of the immediate and palpable objects of the war. They believe and they rightly believe, that their sons saved the liberty of the world.” 

He was correct, insofar as he had indeed ordered the mobilization of some 4.7 million American men to the killing fields of Europe. He had, in fact, created the situation whereby some 116,516 of these mothers’ sons fell to artillery, rifle, and disease, in the mud-tombs and horror of mechanized trench warfare. He had truly consented to the sickness and wounding of a further 320,000 innocent young men. Why indeed should the mothers of the fallen have prayed for him? 

Here Wilson asserts the great lie told by all the imperialist powers of the day to justify their barbarism — that liberty had been saved, and a new order, by way of the League of Nations, had been born: the age of imperial dynasticism ended, they claimed. A new age was beginning, the age of liberal capitalist hegemony; and in this new age there would be no need for the horrors of war, or the repressive excesses of the monarchical dynasties. 

German soldiers leaving their trenches to attack Dead Man’s Hill (Le Mort de Homme) near Verdun. Hermann Rex. Wikimedia Commons

Nearly twenty-years to the day after giving this speech to the people of Pueblo, Colorado, the Nazi horde bore down on the people of Poland — a new World War commenced. It is often portrayed that Wilson’s failure to win favor for America joining the League had played a direct role in their inability to stave off the rise of fascist militarism, and as such was fundamentally incapable of preventing the next war, whereby another 418,500 Americans would perish, let alone the millions more — 24 million Soviet and 20 million Chinese — to stop the fascist terror. The League of Nations was never equipped with the necessary mechanisms for truly preventing the next war, and had no serious intentions of doing so, as made clear by Japan simply walking away on the 24th of February, 1933 in response to the League condemning the brutal invasion of Manchuria. The true purpose of the League of Nations was to pay lip-service to peace while solidifying and entrenching the liberal capitalist ascendance over dynasticism in the 19th century, and to ensure the further development of capitalist hegemony across the world. This is most clearly evidenced by the fact that the Soviet Union, established on the 20th of December, 1922, was not accepted into the League until the 18th of September, 1934 — a full 19 months after Japan’s departure, by which point Nazism had already seized power in Germany, and war was very clearly approaching.

With the founding of the United Nations in San Francisco, California, on October 24, 1945, it was once again dreamed that a new order had been born. Once again, however, these hopes would prove short-lived, when the United States then established the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in Washington, D.C., on April 4, 1949; an overtly anti-communist bloc with open intentions of war with the Soviet Union and repression of freedom movements across the world. Where the League had laid the foundations of hegemony but failed to secure them, the US-established hegemony through the UN would be enforced by a NATO bayonet. For the ensuing 42 years the world would stand on the edge of nuclear annihilation as US-led imperialist forces waged brutal campaigns across the world to violently oppress and “counter” liberation movements not in line with their interests; from the invasion of Korea, to the sponsoring of Operation Condor, to the creation of neo-fascist terrorist stay-behind armies across Europe, to the intentional arming and supporting of religious extremist forces. The brutal enforcement of US imperialist hegemony came to a head on December 26, 1991. As the scarlet banner of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was lowered for the last time, illegally dissolved against the wishes of the people, another declaration was made: a new order was once again proclaimed. The metaphysical dream of the end of history had come. Yet again, only more terror, destruction, and mayhem would ensue.

The crises of this era saw untold human suffering and horror brought on by the surge of the highest stage of capitalism: imperialism . Overnight, millions across the Soviet Union were plunged into poverty; the counter-revolution was unleashed, and the forces of Socialism were left in a state of disarray; by mid-decade the counter-revolution had succeeded across Europe. In the east, and in Cuba, the red flag stood defiant. Socialist governments in China, Cuba, the DPRK, Laos, and Vietnam were forced to review their policies and reorient their plans in order to survive. In the eyes of the imperialists, victory had been achieved, the new order was born, and even the final holdouts of that stubborn ideology would eventually give way to reaction. In lieu of the Soviet Union, the People’s Republic of China appeared as the largest and most advanced of the Socialist countries. The imperialists arrogantly assumed that, given the history of the Sino-Soviet split and the program of Reform and Opening Up, it would be enough to seed the country with compradors and reactionaries, and prey on the market reforms for their own benefit; the irresistible lure of profit, they imagined, would see China hollow itself out for them on their own; the hegemony was secure, history had ended. Once again, they were wrong. 

On April 26, 1996, representatives of China and the former-Soviet Republics of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Russia, would meet in the city of Shanghai. They would ratify the Treaty of Deepening Military Trust in Border Regions, aimed primarily at reducing hostilities in the chaotic border-areas of the former Soviet Union. With this treaty, the Shanghai Five, as they would be known, were born. They would meet again in Moscow in April, 1997, and ratify further joint-agreements, such as the Treaty on Reduction of Military Forces in Border Regions. These exchanges quietly lead to another agreement, submitted to the United Nations in a letter dated 15th of May 1997, with more far-sighted interests: The Russian-Chinese Joint Declaration on a Multipolar World and the Establishment of a New International Order. It’s first clause reads:

"In a spirit of partnership, the [Russian Federation and People’s Republic of China] shall strive to promote the multipolarization of the world and the establishment of a new international order."

The undersigning UN representative for the Russian Federation, Sergey Lavrov, has served as Foreign Minister since 2004. 

Meetings of the Shanghai Five continued on a yearly basis through the turn of the millennium, further adopting resolutions developing the association into a mechanism for international cooperation among its members, as well as a treaty organization, swearing off both military aggression against fellow signatories as well as meddling in one-anothers domestic affairs.

At the 2001 meeting of the association in Shanghai, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization was officially established, with Uzbekistan becoming the first country to join beyond the original five. Meetings have continued on a regular yearly basis since, being held in Russia, Uzbekistan, China, Kazakhstan, and elsewhere. Projects and initiatives would grow and develop in the coming years, and more and more countries would seek to join. India and Pakistan would join simultaneously in 2015, and Afghanistan, Belarus, Iran, and Mongolia would become observers. Dialogue partnerships included Armenia, Azerbaijan, Cambodia, Egypt, Nepal, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, and Turkey; and guest attendees came from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), Turkmenistan, and the United Nations. Referring to the 2005 meeting of SCO Heads of State in Astana, Kazakhstan, China’s People’s Daily reported glowingly on the firm message being sent to the west, that “[t]he people of each country have the right to choose their own road of development,” and calling for the removal of imperialist forces from the region. The Organization urged a diplomatic, multilateral approach to withdrawing US forces from Afghanistan — rather than the US’ eventual unilateral decision to abandon the country suddenly as Taliban forces stormed the capital Kabul 16 years later in 2021. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi during a meeting on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Samarkand, Uzbekistan September 15, 2022. [Alexandr Demyanchuk/Sputnik/Pool via Reuters] 

On the 15th and 16th of September, 2022, SCO Heads of State met in Samarkand, Uzbekistan. It was announced that Iran had officially signed a Memorandum of Obligations to officially join as a member of the Organization. As both Iran and Russia have been heavily targeted by imperialist western sanctions, and China continues to be targeted by imperialist provocations over trade and national security — such as Nancy Pelosi’s ill-advised and crisis-inducing visit to Chinese Taiwan earlier this year — Iran has openly advocated for the SCO and its cooperative mechanisms be utilized as a method for continuing economic cooperation and development against the sanctions; a move that would align with other cooperative maneuvers being made throughout the region, and contribute immensely to the de-dollarization of international trade. Such de-dollarization has been in the works for years, with Russia and China both increasingly exploring alternatives; as this interest meets with liquidity issues, such as plagued Laos earlier this year, and trade issues, such as illegal sanctions plaguing the people of Iran, Russia, and Venezuela, and the illegal blockade of Cuba, the trend to de-dollarization appears to be increasingly close to coming into full swing. When the fever-dream of dollar hegemony finally breaks, the United States as we know it will likely break as well — as evidenced by the already-growing market instability and domestic financial crises. 

Members and partners for the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Shi Yue and Xu Zihe. CGTN.

The Iranian proposition may be seen as a natural extension of the SCO’s pre-existing economic cooperation initiatives, which includes cooperation with the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) and has long been pointed towards the ultimate formation of an SCO free-trade zone. Other initiatives in the economic sphere have been pointed towards expanding energy cooperation and exploration of renewable energy sources; development of infrastructure for both travel and trade; and expansion of financial cooperation to streamline the capital allocation for such projects through the SCO Interbank Consortium. These initiatives align, intersect, and operate in close cooperation with a myriad of other conferences and projects, such as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and BRICS economic association. Likewise, it is further expected that other Observer states, most notably Belarus, are expected to join the organization soon — further expanding its scope, areas of operation, mechanisms for cooperation, and market space. 

Chinese troops participating in Peace Mission 2021, a counterterrorism military exercise for Shanghai Cooperation Organization member states, parade at a training range in Orenburg, Russia, on Monday. The participants are from eight SCO member states, including China, Russia and Kazakhstan. LI CHUN/CHINA NEWS SERVICE

SCO cooperative initiatives and programs also focus strongly on, besides economic cooperation, military and cultural initiatives. In the military sphere, the Organization has signed agreements with the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), hosted joint-training exercises, such as the Peace Mission counterterrorism exercises, assisted in the coordination of anti-terrorism operations across member countries, and promoted anti-narcotics initiatives and cooperation across member states. In more recent times, cooperation has also entered the sphere of cyberwarfare, necessitated by the development of more imperialist cyberattacks in recent times — as exemplified by the recent revelation that the United States has launched more than 10,000 cyberattacks against China in recent years. The SCO has elaborated, however, that it is not a military alliance, and rather seeks to support peace, defense, and security cooperation.

SCO Deputy Secretary-General Grigory Logvinov speaking at the 6th Taihe Civilizations Forum in Beijing.

In the cultural and humanitarian sphere, SCO cooperation takes the form of frequent forums and high-level meetings. From museums, to youth festivals, to more recent developments in promoting deeper cooperation among member states in the medical and pharmaceutical industries, and cooperation with UNESCO. On the 6th of September, 2022, SCO Deputy Secretary-General Grigory Logvinov spoke at the 6th Taihe Civilizations Forum in Beijing; organized by the Taihe Institute. The forum focused on a theme of Science Culture · Future Ethics · Common Values, with Logvinov speaking specifically on Great Powers’ Rivalry, Regional Cooperation, Security, and Development in the Asia-Pacific Region. The Taihe Institute (TI), founded in 2013, is a member of the Belt and Road Studies Network and the BRI International Green Development Coalition, and the Chair of the expert committee of the Innovation Center for China-U.S. Youth Exchange.

Chinese President Xi Jinping speaking at SCO summit, Samarkand, Uzbekistan, 16th September, 2022. MFA China.

When each generation of bourgeois liberal-capitalists set out their new orders in the wake of World Wars One and Two respectively, they were speaking of these developments in terms of establishing and maintaining their own hegemony. With the rise of the SCO, we see the genuine formation of what is altogether new — not because it has been announced as such, but because it is necessitating and catalyzing historic shifts in the global order. Markets, security, and sociocultural domination are all shifting away from the imperial core in the United States. While constant imperialist propaganda is bombarded onto us 24/7, it is easy for onlookers today to see these developments as crises arising out of specific unique conditions and events only occurring now — such as the special operation in Ukraine — the reality is that these specific developments have been in the making for almost thirty years, and themselves have been made manifest by imperialist developments dating back over a century. The spirit of socialist construction and solidarity is alive and well in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, and as the United States, NATO, IMF, and other such mechanisms for imperialist exploitation continue to struggle against the times, as President Xi Jinping said in his speech on the 16th in Samarkand, the SCO and China will continue to “[g]rasp the trend of the times and strengthen unity and cooperation to create a better future.