As China hosts Asia summit, China seeks greater sway

Image copyright Reuters Image caption Prime Minister Imran Khan was invited to the summit

Asian leaders have gathered in Beijing for a summit hosted by Chinese President Xi Jinping.

They aim to reaffirm their commitment to free trade and to that principle enshrined in the founding communique of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).

China has championed the document, which says it is open, inclusive and promotes mutual trust.

Mr Xi has been keen to use the summit as a platform to ramp up his role as a global broker.

The meeting coincides with the launch of China’s first overseas investment fund.

Critics have said this is only the first of many efforts to keep the nationalist, authoritarian, ruling communist party in power.

The West and the US have previously accused China of behaving like a superpower and turning a blind eye to Chinese state-sponsored spying that has been largely duplicated by its rivals.

Still, China has much to gain from its growing clout and many countries are keen to share the wealth generated by China’s economic growth, writes Toby Van Der Bergh.

“In this context, it is understandable that Beijing would want to prove that it is more than just a rising power, and that it is a good neighbour, an all-round good partner,” Mr Van Der Bergh writes in The Guardian.

‘Friendly bilateral cooperation’

Asia was the traditional home of the SCO, which was founded in 2001, a year after the 9/11 attacks on the US.

At that time, it was seen as an anti-extremist grouping comprising China, Pakistan, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

China says that Iraq and Afghanistan are its members, while South Africa joined last year, as part of the grouping’s pivot towards the region.

Image copyright AFP Image caption South Africa joined the SCO in 2018

However, Pakistan was suspended from the organisation in 2014. This came after a military court sentenced a Pakistani Christian to death on blasphemy charges.

SCO leaders will also press ahead with a non-binding commitment made at the body’s meeting last year to restrict nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles outside its borders.

China says its summit is an opportunity to promote good relations among member states and establish “friendly bilateral cooperation”.

For Mr Putin, the summit is the clearest sign yet that Moscow is prioritising its ties with China.

“Presidents Putin and Xi agreed to elevate the relationship to the new strategic level. They agreed to deepen bilateral mutual trust and deepen cooperation in energy, economy, security, political, technical and financial spheres,” said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

Sino-Russian ties have traditionally been dominated by energy projects, with China providing much of the cheap oil for Russia.

But as China became wealthier in the last decade, it has also sought a bigger role in global institutions. This has invited criticism of its behaviour, particularly with respect to cybersecurity.

Its “bilateral cyber partnership” with the US has been given a low-key launch today – but the Russian president has now also invited US President Donald Trump, who will be there for a G20 summit in Argentina later this month.

“We have the first BRICS summit and it is important to explain this partnership to everyone so that those who do not know what it is, can find out and will understand that this is a partnership,” Mr Peskov said of Mr Trump’s inclusion in the summit.

Vladimir Putin will attend the China summit

Topics: world-politics, foreign-affairs, government-and-politics, government-sponsored media, international-aid-and-trade, china, united-states, kyrgyzstan, kyrgyzstan-republic-of, qatar, russian-federation, uzbekistan, pakistan, united-kingdom, united-states

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