The Christian Science Monitor has an article on the integration of the Chinese Muslim community with the rest of the Islam world in terms of economics. Here are a few relevant excerpts from the article.
Mr. Yussuf, a Malaysian businessman, makes a tidy profit importing halal foods from this remote corner of northwestern China. He’s the type of foreign trader this Muslim region hopes to attract more of, in its bid to grab a slice of the multibillion dollar global Islamic food business.
“One-third of our population is Hui,” says Ma Yingqiu, this city’s deputy mayor, referring to the Muslim ethnic minority who live in the Autonomous Region of Ningxia. “They have the same habits as people in Islamic countries. They are this region’s competitive advantage.”
As the local government strives to forge new economic ties with Middle Eastern and other Muslim nations, citizens of this impoverished part of China bordering the Gobi Desert are rediscovering Islam. Emerging from centuries of religious isolation, Ningxia Muslims are developing “an international sense of community,” says Ma Ping, head of the Institute of the Hui and Islam here.
While that might once have unnerved the Chinese government, always uneasy about divided loyalties, Ningxia’s desperate economic straits – it is the country’s third poorest province – have prompted a rethink, says Professor Ma.
“Stability used to be the top priority here, but now it is development,” he says. “What the government wants most is money.”
It was in search of money that the Ningxia government last week held the third annual International Halal Food and Muslim Commodities Trade Fair, which closed here over the weekend. “This fair is Ningxia’s chance to march into the world,” provincial governor Wang Zhengwei proclaimed at the opening ceremony.
Ningxia’s halal food industry is worth nearly $700 million a year, according to government statistics, but less than 3 percent of its output is sold abroad, Ma Yingqiu points out. “We are still at the beginning of this and we have to work on it,” the deputy mayor acknowledges. “But since we are starting from such a small base, it should be easy to grow fast.”