The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) is a a Eurasian political, economic and security organization. In terms of geographic scope and population, it is the world's largest regional organization, covering approximately 60% of the area of Eurasia, 40% of the world population, and more than 30% of global GDP.

The SCO is governed by the Heads of State Council (HSC), its supreme decision-making body, which meets once a year.


  1. China
  2. India
  3. Kazakhstan
  4. Kyrgyzstan
  5. Pakistan
  6. Russia
  7. Tajikistan
  8. Uzbekistan
  9. Iran


  1. Afghanistan
  2. Belarus
  3. Mongolia

Dialogue Partners

  1. Armenia
  2. Azerbaijan
  3. Cambodia
  4. Nepal
  5. Sri Lanka
  6. Turkey
  7. Egypt
  8. Qatar
  9. Saudi Arabia

Guest Attendees

  1. ASEAN
  2. CIS
  3. Turkmenistan (Turkmenistan has previously declared itself a permanently neutral country which was recognized by a resolution adopted by the United Nations General Assembly, thus precluding its membership in the SCO.
  4. UN

Future Membership Possibilities

Full membership

  1. Mongolia has stated its intention to become full member
  2. Afghanistan has stated its intention to become full member
  3. United Arab Emirates has asked to be immediately admitted to the SCO as a full member, skipping established procedures
  4. Belarus will begin the process of obtaining member status
  5. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has stated that he has discussed the possibility of abandoning Turkey's candidacy of accession to the European Union in return for full membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation. As of 2021, the Turkish government has not applied for SCO membership.

Observer status

  1. Vietnam has expressed interest in obtaining observer status but has not applied for it.
  2. Ukraine has expressed interest in obtaining observer status but has not applied for it.
  3. Bangladesh has applied for observer status

Dialogue partner status

  1. Maldives has applied for dialogue partner status
  2. Syria have applied for dialogue partner status
  3. Israel has applied for dialogue partner status
  4. Bahrain has applied for dialogue partner status
  5. Iraq has applied for dialogue partner status
  6. Myanmar has announced it intent to obtain dialogue partner status but has not applied for it yet.


The SCO is the main experimental and practical area for China’s concepts of a new international order. China is one of the main founding countries of the SCO, and the fact that this organisation was founded in Shanghai, China, and named after it, reflects the particularly close historical ties between China and the SCO, of which China is proud.

The SCO plays an important role in China’s diplomacy. Its membership includes three major countries: China, Russia and India, covers Eurasia, Central Asia, South Asia and West Asia, as well as almost all regions which share land borders with China (including Mongolia, an observer state of the SCO). Meanwhile, the SCO is a very important mechanism for cooperation between China and Russia in its neighboring regions, especially in Central Asia. This status and function of the SCO is unique to China and cannot be replaced by any other mechanism. Over the years, China has launched a number of new cooperation platforms and mechanisms related to the region, the most important of which is the Belt and Road Initiative, proposed in 2013. China is promoting economic cooperation through the Belt and Road initiative and the SCO in parallel, making them functionally complementary and mutually reinforcing.

China attaches greater importance to the SCO’s function in international politics, paying more attention to the SCO’s international political role and viewing the SCO’s status more from the perspective of international politics. The SCO embodies a number of China’s basic international political concepts, such as opposing hegemony, unilateralism, the cold war mentality, bloc politics, unilateral sanctions, adherence to the UN Charter, adherence to international law, support for multilateralism, promotion of multipolarity, and so on. Through the SCO, China’s vision has become a collective consensus and a voice and force with greater influence in the world, which can be heard more widely and have a greater impact on the building of the international political order.

The membership of the SCO is very diverse; it includes among its members world powers and small countries, countries of different religions and civilisations, countries with different political systems, (including what the West considers authoritarian and democratic countries), so that within the SCO one can find almost all types of state relations, including relations between large countries, relations between large and small countries, and relations between countries with different religions and political systems and political cultures. China believes that the concepts it proposed such as a new type of great power relations, a new type of international relations, and a new security concept, have been practicing within the SCO, proving their feasibility and serving as an example of successful Chinese diplomacy. The “Shanghai Spirit”, namely “mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality, consultation, respect for diverse civilizations and the pursuit of common development”, is universal and should become the spiritual basis for the construction of new international relations.

China is the biggest driver and the most enthusiastic promoter of SCO economic cooperation, which is natural, since it is the largest economy in the SCO and its economic output is more than twice as large as that of the other member states combined. China had a high vision of SCO economic cooperation, such as the establishment of an FTA and creation of the SCO Development Bank, but these ideas failed to materialise, mainly because other member states were not prepared for it and feared possible economic domination by a strong Chinese economy, and because a higher-level integration mechanism already exists in some SCO members, namely within the Eurasian Economic Union. Now China is focusing on promoting trade and investment liberalization and facilitation in the SCO, strengthening connectivity, dovetailing and the parallel development of the Belt and Road with the development strategies of member states and the Eurasian Economic Union, and strengthening new facets of cooperation beyond traditional areas such as the digital economy, green energy, low-carbon projects, artificial intelligence, information communications, modern agriculture, cross-border e-commerce, etc. China also strives to optimize the trade structure with member states, stimulates more products from member states entering the Chinese market. Now more and more products from SCO countries can be seen on the Chinese market, especially food, agricultural products and seafood from Russia, and agricultural products and fruits from Central Asian countries. China provides the most financial support for SCO economic cooperation.  

The long-standing problems of the SCO are of not-so-high efficiency, weak capacity for coordinated action, lack of a capacity for crisis response, and less-than-ideal implementation of the agreements of multilateral economic cooperation. These are the things that China wants to improve.

China and other SCO countries have not participated in the sanctions against Russia initiated by the United States and Europe. They all maintain normal relations with Russia, and there have been no differences or contradictions among SCO countries due to the Russia-Ukraine conflict. The Russia-Ukraine conflict will not change China’s basic policy of developing the SCO. Moreover, it will make China attach even greater importance to regional cooperation and solidarity.


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