My proposal on The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation

I recently completed my dissertation proposal and handed it in to be marked, I am confident it will ‘pass’ through and I will be able to get started on my project. I will take this time to outline what my project hopes to achieve, and changes I have made, some days only after my proposal was handed in!

The focus of my project is on Asian regionalism, particularly Central Asia with a study of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO). The initial title read: ‘To what extent does the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation represent an anti-western alliance’ however I have started to have reservations on this as unless I take a wholly western analytical perspective the answer is to the question is no, instead with some guidance, I am toying with the subtle change along the lines of: ‘What is the purpose of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation in Central Asia?’. The change still allows a mention of the impacts to western interests in the region but avoids a wholly western lens, something which has hindered studies into Asian international relations, something which Kang (2003), Aris and Snetkov (2013), and Wickett, Nilsson-Wright and Summers (2015) have highlighted.

I aim to answer a few questions through this project: What is the driving force behind the growing Asian institutions? What does the SCO do that other organisations do not? and What does the rise of regional institutions mean for the regional, and world order? There is a complex dynamic in the region, with multiple ‘great powers’ and ‘middle powers’, separatism, terrorism, oil and gas reserves, and several state-to-state frictions. So what do these states hope to achieve from the SCO, is the reason any single one or a combination or them, and if so are they making any progress towards there goal. The rise of institutions, I believe is a sign of what Acharya proposes in his 2014 book The End of American World Order of a growing regional world.

What the SCO was initially set up to do was settle border disputes among member states, however this developed into a an attempt to tackle shared security problems, termed the three evils of separatism, terrorism and religious extremism. The cooperation between member states has however not achieved much, and each state has different objectives for the organisation. China has focused on its economic objectives with the development of a ‘new silk road’ and increasing energy links, the west-east gas pipeline; Russia aims to keep the ‘Stan states within its sphere of influence, and guard against US containment; the central Asian states (‘Stans) has a multitude of individual aims, but one argument suggested by Allison (2008) is that these states are engaging in ‘protective integration’ – in an attempt to protect current regimes. This was only a brief overview of the dynamics in the region and is by no means exhaustive and will be a complex but enjoyable analytical study.

The SCO is not currently the most recognizable institution in the region but its significance is growing, both India and Pakistan are acceding to membership this year, and the SCO will contain over 50% of the worlds population. It will also include two of the fastest/biggest economies in the world and a substantial military presence. These factors do not mean that the SCO will be guaranteed to become a institutional powerhouse, however they do show the signs of a potential nascent into not only regional importance but also gaining global attention.

I have not started writing the project as yet, due to a deadline for an alternative paper I have to write, but if all goes to plan I will start this within the next few weeks.


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