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Shanghai spirit two decades on: language, globalization, and space-making in Sino-Central Asian cooperation

  • Hasan H. Karrar EMAIL logo


This article explores some of the ways in which language was central to the construction of Shanghai spirit, an idiom that has been used to capture multilateral cooperation between China, Russia, and the independent Central Asian states since 1996. That year the heads of China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Russia met in Shanghai to enhance confidence-building measures across their common borders. In 2001, this ad hoc mechanism was superseded by the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), a chartered organization with standing bodies. The SCO was designed for wide-ranging cooperation in a globalizing world, a goal conveyed through a lexicon of cooperation that characterized its formal statements and communiqués: “good neighbourliness”; “win–win”; “mutually beneficial and comprehensive cooperation”; “political multipolarity”; “economic and information globalization”. But today there is discord between the language of cooperation and the SCO’s achievements: over the previous fifteen years, SCO member states have entered into bilateral security agreements with outside countries (including the United States), and trade between SCO countries was, and is, negotiated bilaterally, such as Chinese and Russian investments in Central (and South) Asia. Nevertheless, the vocabulary of cooperation remains important as a space-making exercise envisioning new political configurations in a globalizing world. These new geographical imaginaries of Eurasia have retained the promise of cooperation even if success remains limited.


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Published Online: 2017-8-4
Published in Print: 2017-8-28

© 2017 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston

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