The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation: A Rising Counterweight to Western Influence

The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), a regional security bloc founded in 2001, is increasingly positioning itself as a counterbalance to Western influence in Eurasia.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), a regional security bloc founded in 2001, is increasingly positioning itself as a counterbalance to Western influence in Eurasia. At its annual meeting in Astana, Kazakhstan, the organization’s leaders, particularly Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin, emphasized the group’s growing importance in reshaping the global order.

Expanding Membership and Influence

The SCO, initially comprising Russia, China, and Central Asian nations, has strategically expanded its membership to include India, Iran, and Pakistan. This expansion significantly increases the bloc’s geopolitical weight and economic potential. The inclusion of these major regional powers reflects a deliberate effort to create a more robust alliance capable of challenging Western dominance in global affairs.

Resisting “External Meddling”

President Xi Jinping’s call to resist “external meddling” underscores the SCO’s primary objective of reducing Western influence in the region. His metaphor of “small yards with high fences” likely alludes to what the bloc perceives as Western attempts to isolate or contain SCO member states. Xi’s emphasis on safeguarding the “right to development” suggests a narrative that positions the SCO as a guardian of its members’ sovereign interests against external pressures.

Putin’s Vision for a New Eurasian Security System

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s proposal for a new set of Eurasian collective security treaties marks a bold attempt to reshape the region’s security architecture. While details remain limited, Putin’s suggestion that this system should be open to all countries on the continent, including NATO members, while aiming to remove external military presence (particularly American) from Eurasia, reveals Russia’s ambition to diminish U.S. influence in the region.

Economic Cooperation and De-dollarization

A significant focus of the SCO meeting was on economic cooperation, particularly in reducing dependence on the U.S. dollar. Putin’s call for increased use of national currencies in trade between SCO countries and the creation of a new payment system within the group is a direct response to Western sanctions. This move towards de-dollarization reflects the bloc’s attempt to insulate its economies from potential future sanctions and reduce the global dominance of the U.S. dollar.

Challenging the U.S.-led World Order

Both Xi and Putin view the SCO as playing a crucial role in creating what they term a “new, fairer world order.” This perspective aligns with their shared belief that the U.S.-dominated post-Cold War era is coming to an end. The SCO’s activities and rhetoric position it as an alternative pole in what they see as an emerging multipolar world.

Implications and Challenges

The SCO’s growing assertiveness presents significant challenges to U.S. foreign policy. As President Biden frames the current geopolitical landscape as a contest between democracies and autocracies, the SCO appears to be consolidating an alternative bloc that prioritizes state sovereignty and non-interference over Western-style democratic values.

However, the SCO faces its own internal challenges. The diverse interests of its member states, historical tensions (particularly between India and Pakistan), and varying levels of economic development could potentially hinder the organization’s cohesion and effectiveness.

As the SCO continues to gain influence, several key developments and challenges are likely to emerge:

  1. Geopolitical Realignment: The SCO’s growth may accelerate the trend towards a multipolar world order. This could lead to increased competition between different power blocs, potentially resulting in a more complex and volatile international landscape.
  2. Economic Decoupling: The push for de-dollarization and alternative payment systems within the SCO could contribute to a gradual fragmentation of the global economic system. This may result in the emergence of parallel economic spheres, one dominated by the West and another centered around SCO members.
  3. Technological Competition: As SCO members, particularly China, advance in technological capabilities, we may see an intensification of the global tech race. This could lead to competing technological standards and ecosystems, potentially complicating international cooperation in areas such as telecommunications and cybersecurity.
  4. Regional Security Dynamics: The proposed new Eurasian security system, if implemented, could significantly alter the security landscape in the region. This might lead to reduced NATO influence in Central Asia and potentially create new fault lines in global security arrangements.
  5. Internal Cohesion Challenges: As the SCO expands, maintaining unity among members with diverse and sometimes conflicting interests will be a significant challenge. The organization’s ability to manage these internal dynamics will be crucial for its long-term effectiveness.


The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation’s recent meeting in Astana highlights its evolving role as a counterweight to Western influence in Eurasia. Through expanding membership, proposing new security arrangements, and fostering economic cooperation outside of Western-dominated systems, the SCO is actively working to reshape the global order. As this bloc continues to grow in influence, it will likely play an increasingly significant role in shaping international relations, potentially leading to a more multipolar world order.

Sabah Aslam
Sabah Aslam
Sabah Aslam is the Founder & Executive Director of Islamabad Institute of Conflict Resolution (IICR), and member visiting faculty Dept. of Peace & Conflict Studies, NUML, and School of Politics & IR, Quaid-I- Azam University, Islamabad.