China is hosting a two-day regional security summit attended by Russia, Iran and other allies confronting rising tensions with the United States over trade and its unilateral withdrawal from a multinational nuclear deal with Iran.
Chinese President Xi Jinping on Saturday opened the 18th annual summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) – an eight-member grouping led by Beijing and Moscow – in the coastal city of Qingdao.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, Pakistan’s President Mamnoon Hussain and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi were among those attending, as were representatives from four ex-Soviet Central Asian republics – Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.
Delivering his opening remarks on Saturday, Chinese leader Xi said: “Tomorrow we will hold the first summit of the SCO after its expansion and draw up a blueprint for its future growth.”
“The Qingdao summit is a new departure point for us,” he added. “Together, let us hoist the Shanghai spirit, break waves and embark on a new journey for our organisation.”
Trade, investment and development cooperation issues will feature prominently at the SCO meeting.
China’s “Belt and Road” project will also be discussed – a trade programme that spans more than 60 countries across Asia, the Middle East, Europe, and Africa.
The SCO meeting comes after US President Donald Trump controversially pulled Washington out of the 2015 international pact with Iran that placed limits on its nuclear programme in return for the easing of economic sanctions.
Speaking on the sidelines of the Qingdao summit before meeting Putin, Rouhani said the US exit from the nuclear accord warrants an “important and serious discussion between our two countries”.
Rising tensions with the US after it announced tariffs on steel and aluminium imports from the European Union, Canada and Mexico are also expected to be on the bloc’s agenda over the next two days.
Differences over trade between the US and its key allies dominated proceedings at the ongoing G7 summit in Canada.
Einar Tangen, a political and economic affairs commentator, said the SCO serves as a “big counterpoint” to the G7.
“It’s a tale of two summits – the best of times and the worst of times,” he told Al Jazeera.
“A lot of people will be looking at the differences between these two summits in terms of the style and substance and this is very important as the world is wondering what the shape will be.
“A lot of businesses are not putting their investments in because they are not certain of the future.”