Kazakh expert offers insights on Boao Forum, underscores Kazakhstan’s strategic role in Asia

Adil Kaukenov. Photo credit: KazISS
Adil Kaukenov. Photo credit: KazISS

President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev delivered an address at the Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) on March 28, highlighting Asia’s growing significance and delving into a range of important issues, from rising economic protectionism to food security and transport connections. Adil Kaukenov, chief expert at the Kazakhstan Institute for Strategic Studies (KazISS), said in an interview with Kazinform News Agency that the BFA is an influential platform, and it is important for Kazakhstan to use it to promote its agenda, reaching out not only to large businesses but also government leaders. 

What is Boao Forum?

The Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) is a non-profit organization that hosts high-level forums for leaders from government, business, and academia in Asia and other continents to share their vision on the most pressing issues in this dynamic region and the world at large. The forum is committed to promoting regional economic integration and bringing Asian countries even closer to their development goals.

Founded in 2001, the Boao Forum for Asia takes its name from the town of Boao in the Chinese province of Hainan, where the forum’s permanent venue is located. It is modeled after the World Economic Forum held annually in Davos, Switzerland. The BFA's annual conference is held in the spring and has become one of the most prestigious forums for discussing economic, financial, and social issues in Asia and the world.

President Tokayev addresses the Boao Forum. Photo credit: Akorda press service
President Tokayev addresses the Boao Forum. Photo credit: Akorda press service

This year's 23rd edition of the forum took place under the theme, Asia and the World: Common Challenges, Shared Responsibilities. President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev addressed the forum as an honorary guest.

“As we approach the midpoint of a decade devoted to transformative development, the sober reality is that the global economy is expected to record the slowest half-decade of GDP growth in 30 years. Simultaneously, one of the major challenges facing the world economy is the ongoing trade tensions between major economies. Protectionist policies and escalating trade disputes disrupt global supply chains, hamper economic growth, and undermine investors’ confidence. It is evident that the global economy requires a new development paradigm. Failure to address this challenge may result in missed opportunities in the coming decade,” said Kassym-Jomart Tokayev.

Kazakhstan’s objectives

“For Kazakhstan, it is very important to advance its agenda on authoritative and significant platforms, especially where not just major businesses gather, but also government heads, and at the very highest level, the level of state leaders, such as the Boao Forum. It should be noted that for Kazakhstan's foreign policy and foreign economic activity, one of the main tasks is to increase recognition and trust from international investors and major international companies in order to attract not only capital but also technology transfer, business processes and much more,” said Kaukenov.

He underscored Kazakhstan’s active role in Asia.

Tokayev was an honorary guest at the forum. Photo credit: Akorda press service
Tokayev was an honorary guest at the forum. Photo credit: Akorda press service

“By the way, it was noted that the leader of Kazakhstan spoke at the plenary session as an honorary guest, which naturally shows high interest in Kazakhstan, respect for Kazakhstan, and close partnership ties, in particular with the host country, China,” said the expert.

Asian 'renaissance'

Kaukenov noted the Asian continent is not just experiencing a renaissance but is undergoing a tremendous surge in its development.

“Asia's contribution to the global GDP and to the world's scientific and technological advancement is significant and, in some areas, even decisive. Therefore, it is natural and important that the Asian direction is one of the key focuses in Kazakhstan's foreign policy and foreign economic strategy. The President, as an experienced diplomat deeply immersed in global developments and understanding world processes, consistently emphasizes this,” said the expert.

For Kazakhstan, an Asian country, he stresses the importance of being at the forefront of processes in the continent, including those aimed at economic integration.

The latest report from the Economist Intelligence Unit, a research and analysis division of the Economist Group, indicates that Asia is expected to contribute to 60% of global real GDP growth in 2024.

Strategic cooperation with China

Addressing the forum, Tokayev also stressed the strategic partnership with China. Half of Chinese trade and investment in the region is with Kazakhstan, said Tokayev, noting trade turnover reached a historical record of $41 billion last year.

He also mentioned the groundbreaking Belt and Road Initiative, which was unveiled during President Xi Jinping’s visit to Kazakhstan in 2013.

“This project serves as a key bridge between East and West, and Kazakhstan accounts for 80% of all continental traffic between China and Europe. This is a critical advantage that we must fully utilize,” said Tokayev.

In 2023, the cargo volume between Kazakhstan and China increased by 22%, hitting almost 30 million tons.

According to Kaukenov, Kazakhstan’s strategic location allows the nation to serve as a vital link between continents.

“It is noteworthy, for instance, that the active interaction between Kazakhstan and China on the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) led to the emergence of a new profession - logistician. International logistics is one of the major international services provided by Kazakh companies. This underscores that Kazakhstan's crucial geopolitical and geostrategic position enables it not only to connect regions like Central Asia and South-East Asia but also to bridge Asia and Europe. This is because the overland routes from East Asia to Europe pass right through Kazakhstan,” said Kaukenov.

While Kazakhstan is the largest economy in Central Asia, China is the world’s major economic power. The cooperation is a win-win one, and it is not just a bilateral relationship but a partnership that involves entire regions.

“Numerous Kazakh-Chinese projects have enabled the creation of large-scale projects not only for the two countries but for the entire continent. For example, trains from China pass through Kazakhstan to London in the United Kingdom or from China's Lianyungang through Kazakhstan to Duisburg in Germany. Now, new routes are emerging, such as the Trans-Caspian International Transport Route, which is a Middle Corridor, or routes to the Middle East, thanks to a new road and railway that pass through Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and onward to the Middle East,” said Kaukenov.

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