China-hosted SCO summit ‘unity’ contrasts with G7 disarray

Xi Jinping calls for ‘pursuit of cooperation’ hours after G7 ends with the US president calling the Canadian PM ‘weak’.

Xi Jinping called for the 'pursuit of cooperation for mutual benefit' at the SCO summit [Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP Photo]

Chinese President Xi Jinping has called for the “pursuit of cooperation for mutual benefit” at the final day of a meeting by a Beijing and Moscow-led bloc, hours after the G7 meeting in Canada ended in disarray. 

Xi made his remarks on Sunday on the second and final day of an annual summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in the coastal city of Qingdao, China. 

He also called on his regional partners to “boost harmony and unity by seeking common ground and setting aside differences”. 

Despite disagreements between members of the eight-member grouping, the apparent harmony in which the summit took place stood in contrast with the G7 meeting in Canada.

That two-day meeting between the heads of state of seven of the world’s advanced economies ended with US President Donald Trump withdrawing support for a joint statement and calling Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau “dishonest” and “weak”. 

Tensions had been rife before the summit after Trump announced tariffs on steel and aluminium imports from Canada, Mexico and the European Union (EU) and withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal.

‘Open global economy’

Speaking on Sunday, Xi warned that “unilateralism, trade protectionism and a backlash against globalisation are taking new forms”. 

“We should reject the Cold War mentality and confrontation between blocs, and oppose the practice of seeking absolute security of oneself at the expense of others, so as to obtain security of all,” he said.

Without mentioning the US, Xi also made a plea for free trade, rejecting “selfish, short-sighted” policies and calling for the building of an “open global economy”.

The Chinese government is currently in the middle of negotiations with the US in hopes of staving off a trade war. After the last round of talks ended last week, Beijing said the two sides had made “positive and concrete progress” but details were left to finalise. 

Xi gave a special welcome to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Pakistani President Mamnoon Hussain, whose countries joined the SCO last year.

He also announced he would make 30 billion yuan ($4.7bn) available for loans under a framework formed by SCO countries. 

Reporting from Beijing, Al Jazeera’s Florence Looi said that the calls for a more equitable international order could signify a challenge from Beijing.

“What we could be seeing is China forging new alliances to challenge the existing world order led by the US,” she said. 

‘Creative babbling’

Speaking at the summit on Sunday, Russian President Vladimir Putin criticised the US decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal, saying it could “destabilise the situation” and said Russia still supports the deal.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani was present at the meeting with his country maintaining observer status in the bloc. 

Putin also said he is willing to meet Trump “as soon as the American side is ready”, following a report that White House officials are working on organising a summit. 

The remarks came just after Trump said on Friday that Russia could be allowed back into the G7 group – a suggestion that was quickly slapped down by his allies. 

Russia was suspended from the G8 after the 2014 annexation of Crimea

On Sunday, Putin said it was not Moscow’s choice to leave the G7. “We will be glad to see everyone here in Moscow,” he said.

He added however that the combined purchasing power of the SCO outstripped that of the G7 and, when asked to comment on the G7 joint statement said the bloc should stop its “creative babbling”. 

Big role for Asia

Michele Geraci, the head of Nottingham University’s China economic policy programme, told Al Jazeera he believes the SCO summit and coinciding arrival of Kim Jong-un in Singapore for a meeting with Trump sends a clear message: 

“Asia is playing a very important role. It’s sending the signal that the big changes, the big decisions are being made here,” he said. 

“The West, the G7, which doesn’t include China nor Russia, is kind of struggling not just with the rest of the world but now they start to struggle with each other. 

“This is a further triumph for Xi to be the pivotal player in the region first, but also rising to a more important role within the world.”

The SCO was founded in 2001 and is currently made up of China, Russia, India, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies