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The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and its geopolitical significance

About the world's largest regional political organisation with economic potential

Since its foundation in 2001, the number of members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) has increased from originally six to nine. Belarus is to be admitted as a member in 2023, Afghanistan and Mongolia have observer status. While in the early years the focus was on the security policy dimension, the SCO increasingly developed into a regional forum with different priorities: economy, trade, technology, culture, energy and tourism.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) is a supranational organisation that emerged from the so-called Shanghai Five. The number of dialogue partners now includes 14 countries.

The meeting of the presidents of China and Russia, Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin, on the sidelines of the SCO summit in Samarkand (15-16 September 2022) was the first meeting of the two heads of state since Russia started the war in Ukraine. Both presidents demonstrated unity and agreement in their assessment of the international political situation. China declared solidarity with Russia's geopolitical interests and did not criticise the invasion of Ukraine. Russia, conversely, supported China's claims regarding Taiwan.

Although most SCO member states are sceptical or critical of the West, the SCO should not be seen as a strictly anti-Western association. Several countries, especially in Central Asia and the Middle East, are interested in good relations with the US and Europe, at least in terms of economic policy, or want to keep various options open in their foreign relations.

The SCO is burdened with internal conflicts, rivalries and antagonisms among the member states and is thus limited in its ability to act. Nevertheless, its potential as a platform for bilateral talks and negotiations between countries from different regions with different geopolitical interests should not be underestimated.

A full membership of Turkey in the SCO would not be compatible with NATO membership and would undoubtedly lead to a significant crisis in the transatlantic alliance. However, it can be assumed that Turkey's aspirations for SCO membership will not go beyond declarations of intent for the time being.

Read the entire Monitor: „Die Shanghaier Organisation für Zusammenarbeit und ihre geopolitische Bedeutung“ here as a PDF.


Jan Senkyr

Jan Senkyr bild

Advisor Foreign and Security Policy +49 30 26996-3936

About this series

The Monitor series deals with one main topic at a time from the perspective of KAS experts and places it in the political and social context on the basis of a few key points.

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The contributions appear exclusively online and can therefore not be ordered.


The current main topics are “Development policy”, “Sustainability” and “Election and social research”. The contributions of these sub-series are presented for you on separate overview pages in addition to the overall series.