Speech at the 18th Meeting of the Council of Heads of Government of Member States of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization
H.E. Li Keqiang, Premier of the State Council of The People’s Republic of China
Tashkent, 2 November 2019
Prime Minister Abdulla Aripov,
It gives me great pleasure to join you for the 18th SCO Heads of Government Meeting in Tashkent, the city of sunshine. I wish to thank our host, the government of Uzbekistan, for its thoughtful preparations and arrangements for the meeting.
Since its inception 18 years ago, the SCO has kept a sound growth momentum with fruitful cooperation in security, economic, cultural and many other fields. Following its enlargement two years ago, member states, both founding and newly joined ones, have further tapped into the SCO’s potential and scored new achievements from a new starting point. At the Bishkek Summit last June, President Xi Jinping proposed to make the SCO an example of solidarity, trust, common security, mutual benefit, inclusiveness and mutual learning and forge a closer SCO community with a shared future. No matter how the international situation may evolve, we as SCO members will always uphold the Shanghai Spirit and reject outdated mindsets such as the Cold War mentality, zero-sum game and the clash of civilizations narrative in favor of equality, openness, inclusiveness and mutually beneficial cooperation. We will always work together to safeguard peace, stability and development gains in our region, and contribute our share to a more just and equitable international order.
The international landscape has been going through complex and profound changes. Factors of instability and uncertainties are looming large: from flagging global growth, sluggish world trade and investment, rising protectionism and unilateralism to flare-ups of regional hotspots and persistent non-traditional security threats such as terrorism. On the other hand, peace and development remain the irreversible trend of our times. Regional cooperation is making further progress, and a new round of technological and industrial revolution is booming, presenting fresh opportunities for emerging markets and developing countries. It is time that we in the SCO seize the opportunities before us, build on our unity and trust, diversify cooperation and meet challenges together. To deliver on the consensus reached at the SCO summits and move toward higher quality cooperation, we need to intensify our efforts in the following areas.
First, we need to cement security arrangements to bolster the foundation of development. For all of us, development can only be attained in the larger context of regional security and stability. As threats and challenges keep coming our way, SCO members need to maintain close communication and coordination, enhance mutual support, and work for common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security. By doing so, we will build on SCO’s strength in security cooperation to jointly preserve stability and tranquility in the region and create a favorable external environment for economic and social endeavors in our own countries.
We need to further improve the legal basis for combating terrorism, separatism and extremism, reinforce the Regional Anti-Terrorism Structure and positively study the setting-up of an SCO anti-narcotics coordination mechanism. Putting prevention first, we need to earnestly implement the SCO Convention on Countering Extremism, take de-radicalization measures in areas of education, publicity, poverty alleviation and youth in order to stem the spread of extremist ideologies and eliminate the breeding ground for terrorism. In response to the changing realities, we should continue our joint counter-terrorism exercises and joint border control operations, strengthen security collaboration for major events and key projects, deepen cybersecurity cooperation, and upgrade our toolkit with the latest technologies to better counter violent terrorism. We need to give full play to the role of the SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group, support international efforts for peace and reconstruction in Afghanistan and jointly contribute to security, stability and economic progress in that country.
Second, we need to open up wider to expand the space for development. Economic globalization and regional economic integration remain the prevalent trend of the day. Isolating oneself will only lead to stagnation; a beggar-thy-neighbor approach will serve no one’s interests. Only by embracing multilateralism and free trade and opting for openness and cooperation can we draw strength from complementarity and share the benefits of cooperation.
We need to uphold the authority and efficacy of WTO rules, support an open, inclusive, transparent, non-discriminatory and rules-based multilateral trading regime, unequivocally reject protectionism, and work together for an open world economy. To counter the downward pressure on the world economy, we need to tap into new markets, intensify trade and practical cooperation in all fields, and unlock the dynamism of regional economic cooperation. We need to steadfastly advance trade and investment liberalization and facilitation in the region, accelerate the free flow of factors of production, improve our division of labor and better integrate our industrial, supply and value chains. Harnessing the strong complementarity between our economies, we may strengthen the synergy between the Belt and Road Initiative and regional cooperation initiatives and development strategies of fellow SCO members. We also need to implement the renewed Program of Multilateral Trade and Economic Cooperation with real earnest and promote international industrial cooperation with a view to achieving win-win results for all involved.
China is working hard to develop the China-SCO Local Economic and Trade Cooperation Demonstration Zone in Qingdao, a Chinese port city with advantageous location, advanced logistics and sound industrial system. We hope to make Qingdao a new platform for in-depth SCO economic and trade collaboration at the sub-national level. We will continue to encourage Chinese companies to partner with fellow SCO members following the principle of government support, business initiative and commercial operation. And we call for concerted efforts by SCO members to foster a fair, open and transparent business environment and protect the legitimate rights and interests of all non-local investors.
Third, we need to enhance connectivity to lay the groundwork for high-quality development. SCO countries enjoy geographical proximity, close trade links and frequent personnel exchanges. Building more convenient and accessible transport and logistics networks and all-round connectivity will help lower the costs of flows of production factors, break development bottlenecks, and promote the coordinated development and common prosperity of regional countries.
Focusing on infrastructure connectivity, we should invest more in pursuing new breakthroughs in the development of our region’s transportation, energy, and information and communications networks. Better connectivity in these areas will provide greater facilitation and stronger underpinning for lowering the development cost. We need to swiftly address impediments to connectivity concerning policies, rules and standards through consultations, streamline customs procedures, and remove administrative barriers, with a view to facilitating the smooth delivery of goods across our countries.
We need to give full play to the role of the SCO Joint Commission on Facilitation of International Road Transport, advance consultations on an SCO program for road development, and make good use of the cooperation mechanism among our railway administrations. The building of multi-modal transport routes and international multi-modal logistics centers should be encouraged to lend a stronger impetus to the growing economic cooperation and trade. SCO cooperation mechanisms in modern information and telecommunications should be better exploited to deepen mutually beneficial cooperation in these areas and spread the benefit of information technologies across our region.
We need to better harness the supporting role of financial cooperation. While employing multiple investment and financing vehicles in our region in a coordinated manner, we will continue to explore viable approaches to the setting-up of an SCO development bank to collectively provide reliable funding support for connectivity projects in our region.
Fourth, we need to nurture priority areas in innovation to boost the new drivers of growth. Innovation can help foster new areas of growth and accelerate industrial transformation and upgrading. We need to redouble efforts to implement innovation-driven development strategies, invest more in scientific and technological research, development and innovation, and enhance innovation cooperation and the sharing of outcomes. This way, more countries and peoples will directly benefit from the innovation dividend.
Following the development trends of digital, Internet and smart technologies, we need to jointly foster an open, fair, just and non-discriminatory environment for the application of 5G and other new technologies. We need to fully harness the Internet Plus to better tailor our goods and services to the needs of consumers and upgrade our economic structure. China will contribute its efforts to the building of a technology transfer center for the sharing of scientific and technological information and the commercialization and application of innovation outcomes. China will launch the SCO International Youth Business Incubator next year to support innovation and business start-ups by young people in our countries. China will host an SCO satellite navigation forum, work to launch the SCO demonstration base for exchanges and training on agricultural technologies in Shaanxi Province, with the aim of better applying new and high technologies to the socioeconomic development of SCO countries.
We need to champion green development and low-carbon, circular and sustainable ways of life and production, to jointly make the world a clean and beautiful place. China will work with all parties to make good use of the SCO Environment Information Sharing Platform, step up exchanges on environmental protection, energy conservation and emissions reduction, and promote green and sustainable development in regional countries.
Fifth, we need to put people first and share the benefits of development. The very aim of development lies in improving people’s wellbeing. SCO member states need to make concerted efforts to promote inclusive development, raise living standards, and strengthen people-to-people exchanges and mutual learning, so as to deliver greater benefits to people in this region.
We need to enhance cooperation in education, health and environmental protection to produce tangible outcomes for our peoples. China will make continued efforts with all SCO countries to achieve higher quality public education and employment, including making a success of the SCO University and hosting an SCO craftsmen workshop and a vocational skills contest in China. China will contribute its part to SCO countries’ joint endeavor to eradicate poverty by way of organizing training programs and sharing its experience.
China will provide 1,000 free cataract surgeries for SCO members and observers in the next three years in the Lifeline Express International Sight Saving Mission, as part of cooperation on blindness prevention. An SCO forum on traditional medicine will be held in China next May to step up exchanges on traditional medicine and promote public health.
Cooperation in culture, media, tourism and sports also needs to be strengthened by holding regular activities such as the SCO Forum on Women and the Youth Campus. These efforts will help bring our people closer, deepen mutual understanding, mutual respect and mutual trust, and carry forward our friendship to future generations.
This year, we in China warmly celebrated the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic. Over the past seven decades, China has achieved remarkable progress and created opportunities for the development of other countries. China has contributed around 30 percent of global growth for many years. It is now a major trading partner and an important export market for over 130 countries and regions.
The high-quality BRI cooperation, which is open and mutually beneficial, has injected fresh impetus to the common development of participating countries. In its latest round of high-level opening-up, China has been implementing measures to further expand import, lower the threshold for market access, strengthen the protection of intellectual property rights, and foster a world-class, market-oriented business environment governed by a sound legal framework. The second China International Import Expo will be held in Shanghai early next week. China stands ready to import more quality products from SCO countries. All parties are most welcome to participate in the expo and share opportunities brought by opening-up and cooperation.
As our Uzbek friends say, “One rock alone cannot hold back the flood, only unity will lead us to triumph.” It perfectly captures the spirit that has enabled our organization to grow from strength to strength. Our achievements so far have ushered the SCO into a crucial period for new and even greater progress. Together, with a commitment to the Shanghai Spirit and the unity of purpose, we will deepen cooperation and make new contributions to the peace, stability, development and prosperity of our region and the wider world!