Graph convolutional networks (GCN) with one or two hidden layers have been widely used in handling graph data that are prevalent in various disciplines. Many studies showed that the gain of making GCNs deeper is tiny or even negative. This implies that the complexity of graph data is often limited and shallow models are often sufficient to extract expressive features for various tasks such as node classification. Therefore, in this work, we present a framework called graph convolutional kernel machine (GCKM) for graph-based machine learning. GCKMs are built upon kernel functions integrated with graph convolution. An example is the graph convolutional kernel support vector machine (GCKSVM) for node classification, for which we analyze the generalization error bound and discuss the impact of the graph structure. Compared to GCNs, GCKMs require much less effort in architecture design, hyperparameter tuning, and optimization. More importantly, GCKMs are guaranteed to obtain globally optimal solutions and have strong generalization ability and high interpretability. GCKMs are composable, can be extended to large-scale data, and are applicable to various tasks (e.g., node or graph classification, clustering, feature extraction, dimensionality reduction). The numerical results on benchmark datasets show that, besides the aforementioned advantages, GCKMs have at least competitive accuracy compared to GCNs.