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By the yardstick of Jacques, the melancholy philosopher-clown in William Shakespeare's play As You Like It, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) has indisputably passed the stage of "Mewing and pucking in the nurse's arms".
Nor is SCO anymore the "whining schoolboy, with his satchel/And shining morning face, creeping like snail/Unwillingly to school". The SCO more and more resembles Jacques' lover, "Sighing like a furnace, with a woeful ballad/Made to his mistress' eyebrow." Indeed, if all the world's a stage and the regional organizations are players who make their exits and entrances, the SCO is doing remarkably well playing many parts. That it has finally reached adulthood is beyond dispute.
But growing up is never easy, especially adolescence, and the past year since the SCO summit in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, has been particularly transformational. What stands out when the SCO's ninth summit meeting begins in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg in Russia on Monday is that the setting in which the regional organization - comprising China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan - is called on to perform has itself unrecognizably shifted since last August's gathering of leaders in Dushanbe. First, the big picture.