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Since late 2016, Ningxia has drawn attention as a new target in Beijing’s drive to “Sinicize Islam.” The removal of overt signs of the Islamic faith and Arab influences is viewed as representing a new front in the CCP’s sweeping rollback of religious freedom. Is Ningxia another Xinjiang as both the party and its critics fear? This paper argues that it is not at the empirical level but shares with Xinjiang key underlying dynamics at the systemic level. At the empirical level, Ningxia’s “Islamization” stemmed largely from local authorities’ use of the Islamic part of Ningxia’s heritage as a developmental strategy, leading to so-called pan-Halalfication, Saudization and Arabization. In contrast to more complex social dynamics in Xinjiang, Ningxia’s “Islamization” can be more easily dealt with by withdrawing the local state’s own promotion. At the systemic level, the rise and fall of Islamization in Ningxia share with Xinjiang’s case the critical role of the state in affecting the fate of religion for significant ethno-religious communities.


This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Journal of Contemporary China on November 2, 2022, available at:

Available for download on Wednesday, May 15, 2024