SCO meeting in Uzbekistan: Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping shake hands - more than just a photo opportunity?

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) meets in Uzbekistan.

SCO meeting in Uzbekistan: Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping shake hands - more than just a photo opportunity?

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) meets in Uzbekistan. There, in picturesque Samarkand on the Silk Road, the Chinese head of state Xi Jinping will be making a state visit abroad for the first time after his two-and-a-half-year corona self-isolation. One of the most symbolic meetings is likely to be the joint photo shoot with his Moscow colleague Vladimir Putin. The two last met at the Winter Olympics in Beijing earlier this year.

What is behind the state summit, which is relatively unknown in the West, and what can be expected from it?

The SCO was founded in 2001 by China and Russia, originally as a security organization. So there was quick talk of a counter-NATO. Eight states now belong to it. In addition to China and Russia, these are Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, i.e. ex-Soviet republics. India and Pakistan joined in 2019. Contenders for membership include Iran and Belarus, among others. The SCO now also sees itself as an economic association and a counterweight to the G7. It represents around 40 percent of the world's population.

For two days, the representatives of the eight participating states and the observer countries want to talk about topics such as security and economic relations. It is unclear whether the Ukraine war will be addressed. Turkey is also taking part this year, as the only NATO member. Its President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will speak with Vladimir Putin about the grain agreement, among others. Turkey is a facilitator in the deal that unlocked Ukraine's seaports after months of a Russian naval blockade. Russia complains that a large part of the grain does not go to poor countries, but to Europe. As can be seen from the participants, the SCO sees itself not only as a counterweight to the influence of the USA, but as an expressly anti-Western alliance.

First and foremost, the meeting between Presidents Putin and Xi will be a photo op, during which the Russian President can show alongside his Beijing counterpart that he is not as isolated in the world as some would like. As far as the Ukraine war is concerned, there is not much between the two anyway. The Chinese leadership backed the Kremlin right from the start and portrayed the USA and NATO as the main culprits in the war. However, Beijing is cautiously tackling, and many Chinese companies are reluctant to do business with Russia because of Western sanctions. The meeting is the first face-to-face encounter between the two leaders since the invasion of the neighboring country ordered by Putin. At Friday's council meeting, Putin will deliver a speech about his vision for the organization's future.

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