The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), formed in 2001, is political, economic and security alliance that has been expanding and consolidation in regional and global power since its inception.
The SCO has the potential for establishing a new world order, with its capacity for unifying the aims and actions of China and Russia, thereby displacing the previously unipolar world order dominated by the US. China has been determined to reshape the world order since its exponential economic growth in the mid-to-late 1990s, and the SCO provides the perfect forum in which this aim can be achieved.
China and Russia have used the SCO as a vessel for redirecting the world order through extensive economic cooperation, as seen by mutually beneficial resource partnerships such as Russia allowing the Chinese petrochemicals firm Sinopec to own 49% of Udmurtneft, one of its largest oil companies.
This economic cooperation is also present in agreeing terms for the ‘One Belt One Road’ initiative and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank through SCO channels, which will enable them to boost their global economic capacity and displace the US as the world’s economic hegemon.
What does this new world order mean for Western interests? There are arguments that the SCO threatens Western strategic interests in the Middle East and Central Eurasia as it alters the pre-existing state of energy security and cooperation in favour of a Sino-Russian dynamic.
This can be seen as China has increased its investments in Iran, Iraq, Saudi-Arabia, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan energy imports to more than $100 billion in 2014, far exceeding the investments of the US and jeopardising the US and its allies’ ability to maintain their energy partnerships in the region.
Western energy security is further threatened by Central Eurasian states following Russia’s lead and restricting Western-sponsored NGOs, energy security and private sector expansion. With energy being the lynchpin of economic and military power in the region, these developments should make the West wary of the SCO's role in the region.
Equally as worrying for Western states is how the SCO strengthens authoritarian regimes. These regimes lack legitimacy due to their often-undemocratic nature, inducing them to seek legitimacy via other means, with authoritarian leaders depending on support from cliques provided by the SCO.
Authoritarian-regimes often prioritise survival and security above other policy areas, thereby making an organisation such as the SCO which prioritises security an ideal buffer to external pressures to democratise.
The SCO does provide a platform for a new world order through its Sino-Russian economic expansion. It also threatens Western interests in the region through its intrusion into energy security, and strengthens and protects authoritarian regimes through its prioritisation of security and survival.
As a result, the West and its institutions, such as NATO and the EU, must be aware of the impact that the SCO is having on the region and the world order as a whole and do their best to balance the increasing power and influence the SCO wields.
Author: Thomas Jørner
Thomas is a student of Politics at the University of Copenhagen.