As the annual Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit kicks off in the central Chinese city of Zhengzhou on Tuesday, all eyes will be on the group's leading powers—China and Russia—as they seek to consolidate control over Central Asia.
Launched in 2001, the SCO is composed of China, Russia, former Soviet republics Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan with the aim of strengthening political, trade, intelligence, security and military ties between the border-sharing members. Iran, Afghanistan, Mongolia, India and Pakistan are currently observers, but the latter two are expected to be official members by next year.
China's One Belt One Road (OBOR) project, which aims to recreate the ancient Silk Road trade and infrastructure networks across central, west and south Asia, is expected to feature prominently on the SCO's agenda and experts will be watching how Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev reacts.
"Central Asia is the place where Russian and Chinese interests really merge. As we look into the future, there is potential for political problems in the region and that may create a space for the Russians and Chinese to increase their cooperation," said Rodger Baker, vice president of Asia-Pacific Analysis at Stratfor.