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China, Russia and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation: blessing or curse for new regionalism in Central Asia?


This paper discusses China and Russia and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation Organisation (SCO), a Eurasian regional organisation established in 2001 and consisting of China, Russia and the four Central Asian republics of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. I argue that while the two largest members of the SCO are essential to the organisation, they at the same time prevent the SCO from becoming a more comprehensive regional organisation. Moreover, the actions and presence of China and Russia in Central Asia, together with inherently inauspicious characteristics of the region when compared to the post-Cold War new regionalist thinking, hinder the overall regionalisation in the area. However, regionalisation, hopefully in time leading to greater regional cooperation in Central Asia, is very much in the interests of Europe and the European Union (EU) as a potential peaceful way forward in the development of the region.

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  1. The CSTO consists of Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan and, as the name already suggests, includes guarantees of collective security. The SCO, which includes five members of the CSTO and China, does not have this kind of an agreement.

  2. The SCO has a secretariat, and the post of the Secretary General rotates among the member countries.

  3. While both of these divisions are based on the author’s subjective views, both the economic and political criteria are clear: China and Russia are Great Powers with much more capabilities than the others. Similarly, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan enjoy an image of primus inter pares in Central Asia.

  4. Apart from the OSCE, the GUAM is a political union between Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Moldova with Turkey and Latvia as observers.


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Correspondence to Teemu Naarajärvi.

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Naarajärvi, T. China, Russia and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation: blessing or curse for new regionalism in Central Asia?. Asia Eur J 10, 113–126 (2012).

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  • European Union
  • Member State
  • Regional Organisation
  • Regional Cooperation
  • Small Member