Veteran Chinese diplomat appointed SCO secretary-general
China’s outgoing ambassador to the European Union, Zhang Ming, has taken over as the new secretary-general of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), an eight-member security bloc that includes India.
Zhang, who served for four years as the head of the Chinese mission to the EU, assumed office on January 1.
Zhang, 65, will be based at the SCO secretariat in Beijing and took over from Vladimir Norov, a former diplomat from Uzbekistan who had held the office since 2019.
Confirming the appointment on Wednesday, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson, Wang Wenbin said: “According to SCO rules and as approved by the Council of Heads of States of the SCO, Zhang Ming has assumed the role of the SG of the SCO for a term of three years from January 1 this year.
“He is a veteran diplomat with great experience in multilateral diplomacy. I am sure like his predecessors, he will achieve new progress.”
“As the host country of the SCO secretariat, China will continue to support the secretariat and the secretary-general and will work with other parties to uphold the Shanghai spirit, deepen political security, trade, connectivity and cultural cooperation,” Wang said.
The SCO comprises eight member states: India, Kazakhstan, China, the Kyrgyz Republic, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
The security-focused bloc also comprises four countries with “observer” status and six more as “dialogue partners”.
India and Pakistan joined SCO at the Astana summit in 2017.
Zhang, who had served in Yemen, Oman and Israel among other countries, had earlier served as both assistant minister and vice-minister of foreign affairs at the Chinese ministry of foreign affairs.
The senior Chinese diplomat’s takers over SCO head in the backdrop of Pakistan’s frequent efforts to bring up the issue of Kashmir, a bilateral one, at the multilateral forum, going against the mechanism’s charter.
In September, NSA Ajit Doval walked out of a virtual meeting of national security advisers of SCO states after his Pakistani counterpart, Moeed Yusuf, projected a map, which inaccurately depicted the borders of the two countries.
And, in November, external affairs minister S Jaishankar criticised another attempt to bring up bilateral problems at the 20th meeting of the SCO Council of Heads of Government.
“It is unfortunate to note that there have been repeated attempts to deliberately bring bilateral issues into SCO. This violates the well-established principles and norms of SCO Charter. Such acts are counterproductive to the spirit of consensus and cooperation that define this organisation and should be condemned,” Jaishankar then said.