CGTN interview with Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev

Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, the President of Kazakhstan, arrived in the Chinese city of Xi’an on May 17, for a state visit to China and also to attend the first in person summit of the heads of state of China and the five countries of Central Asia. This will be held in the northwest city, that was the starting of the original silk road that linked China with Central Asia many centuries ago, on May 18-19.

Holding talks with President Xi Jinping shortly after his arrival, the Chinese leader wished Tokayev a happy birthday, noting that he turned 70 this very day. He pointed out that Tokayev’s state visit to China on this special occasion speaks volumes about the strength of the bilateral ties and once again attests to his unique bond with China. China and Kazakhstan are trustworthy good friends, good brothers and good partners, he added.

Shortly before he left for China, Tokayev gave an interview to Wang Guan from CGTN’s Leaders Talk series in the Kazakh capital, Astana. 

President Tokayev explains that, as a country at the center of Eurasia, Kazakhstan should be a territory of peace and friendship. (Although not mentioned in this interview, Kazakhstan’s hosting of several rounds of Syrian peace talks would be a good example of this aspiration.) The country should have as many friends as possible, first of all with its immediate neighbous, and should pursue a balanced, multi-directional foreign policy. 

Recalling meetings with his Chinese counterpart, Tokayev describes Xi Jinping as a great leader, for whom he has great respect and who is leading China to a bright future. He expresses support for the concept of a community of shared future and the global initiatives on security, development and civilizations, adding that they contribute positively to the necessary work of building a world free of discrimination, sanctions and pressure. 

Noting that both Kazakhstan and China are Asian countries, Tokayev insists that it is therefore senseless to conflate modernization with westernization. “We have our own way,” which involves learning anything that is useful, but which does not allow any interference in internal affairs.  He expressed strong support for the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which Xi Jinping first proposed 10 years ago during a state visit to Kazakhstan. 

Kazakhstan is to assume the role of chair and host country of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) later this year, following the summit to be held in the Indian capital, New Delhi. Tokayev, who, as Kazakh Foreign Minister, attended the group’s founding meeting in Shanghai in 1996, describes the SCO as a unique body with a diversified agenda, which does not confine itself to security and military issues only, but also applies itself to economic, investment, cultural and other matters.

Tokayev rejects any move aimed at antagonizing, containing or decoupling from China, noting that the neighboring country has never caused any harm to Kazakhstan in history. He is crystal clear about Taiwan, noting that it is a part of China and that China will, of course, eventually be reunified. The principle of the territorial integrity of all states is fixed in the United Nations Charter and must be respected. 

The Kazakh leader, as his interviewer notes, is today one of the very few world leaders who speaks fluent Chinese. He lived in China for nearly eight years, starting as a student in 1983. Kazakhstan was at that time a part of the Soviet Union and China and the Soviet Union were just then starting to repair and resume their relations after a period of bitter estrangement. Tokayev was therefore a pioneer and icebreaker. Shortly after completing his studies in 1984, he returned to Beijing and served as a diplomat in the Soviet Embassy until 1991. 

Tokayev describes his period studying in Beijing as one of the best times in his life and fondly recalls his university teacher after Wang Guan presents him with his video message. Switching to Chinese, Tokayev says that China and Kazakhstan are reliable partners who support each other’s development and all weather friends. Asked to name his favorite Chinese writer, he cites Lu Xun, who Mao Zedong described as, “not only a great man of letters but a great thinker and revolutionary.”

The full interview is embedded below.

One thought on “CGTN interview with Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev”

  1. I am from Vancouver,Canada and i wanted to say that in the late 1950s when i was in school in Canada i remembers studying Geography and learning about Kazakhstan.At the time looking at pictures of Kazakhstan in the Geography book it looked like a nice place with pictures of the countryside and people on horseback. I can tell it is still a nice place. Kazakhstan is lucky to have China has a neighbor.
    Argentina in South America use to be similar to Kazakhstan until British and US Imperialism destroyed the similarities.

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