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After the fall of the Qing Dynastymarker, which was hostile to Muslims, there appeared to be a reason for hope as Sun Yat Sen, who led the new republic, immediately proclaimed that the country belonged equally to the Han, Hui (Muslim), Meng (Mongol), and the Tsang (Tibetan) peoples. When the People's Republic of Chinamarker was established in 1949, Muslims were to again suffer repression, especially in the cultural revolution. Today, Islam is undergoing a revival and there has been an upsurge in Islamic expression.

Republic of China

The Manchu dynasty fell in 1911, and the Republic of China was established by Sun Yat Sen, who immediately proclaimed that the country belonged equally to the Han, Hui (Muslim), Meng (Mongol), and the Tsang (Tibetan) peoples. This led to some improvement in relations between these different peoples. The end of the Qing dynasty also marked an increase in Sino-foreign interaction. This led to increased contact between Muslim minorities in China and the Islamic states of the Middle East. By 1939, at least 33 Hui Muslims had studied at Cairo's Al-Azhar Universitymarker. In 1912, the Chinese Muslim Federation was formed in the capital Nanjingmarker. Similar organization formed in Beijing (1912), Shanghai (1925 and Jinanmarker (1934). Academic activities within the Muslim community also flourished. Before the Sino-Japanese War of 1937, there existed more than a hundred known Muslim periodicals. Thirty journals were published between 1911 and 1937. Although Linxia remained the center for religious activities, many Muslim cultural activities had shifted to Beijing.

In the first decade of the 20th century, it has been estimated that there were 48 million Muslims in China proper (that is, China excluding the regions of Mongolia and Xinjiang). Of these, almost half resided in Gansumarker, over a third in Shaanximarker (as defined at that time) and the rest in Yunnanmarker.

People's Republic of China

The People's Republic of China was founded in 1949. Through many of the early years there were tremendous upheavals which culminated in the Cultural Revolution. During the Cultural Revolution the Government attempted to dilute the Muslim population of Xinjiang by settling masses of Han Chinese there, and replacing Muslim leaders. The government constantly accused Muslims and other religious groups of holding "superstitious beliefs" and promoting "anti-socialist trends".

Since the advent of Deng Xiaoping in 1979, the Chinese government liberalised its policies toward Islam and Muslims. New legislation gave all minorities the freedom to use their own spoken and written languages; develop their own culture and education; and practice their religion. More Chinese Muslims than ever before are allowed to go on the Hajj.

China today

Under China's current leadership, Islam is undergoing a modest revival and there are now many mosques in China. There has been an upsurge in Islamic expression and many nation-wide Islamic associations have been organised to co-ordinate inter-ethnic activities among Muslims.

In most of China, Muslims have considerable religious freedom, however, in areas like Xinjiang, where there has been unrest among Uighur Muslims, activities are restricted.China is fighting an increasingly protracted struggle against members of its Uighur minority, who are a Turkic people with their own language and distinct Islamic culture. Uighar separatists are intent on re-establishing the state of East Turkistan, which existed for a few years in the 1930s and 1944-1950. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, China feared potential separatist goals of Muslim majority in Xinjiang. An April, 1996 agreement between Russiamarker, Kazakhstanmarker, Tajikstanmarker and Kyrgyztanmarker, however, assures China of avoiding a military conflict. Other Muslim states have also asserted that they have no intentions of becoming involved in China's internal affairs. China fears the influence of radical Islamic thinking filtering in from central Asia, and the role of exiles in neighbouring states and in Turkey, with which Xinjiang's majority Uighur population shares linguistic ties. After, September 11, many "ethnic" Muslims were forcibly evicted from Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhoumarker.

With economic reform after 1978, health care in China became largely private fee-for-service. This was widely criticised by Muslims in the North West, who were often unable to obtain medical support in their remote communities.

Muslim nations like Iranmarker, Saudi Arabiamarker and Turkeymarker support Muslims in China. Turhan Tayan, the former defense minister of Turkey (in 1995-1996), recently told China
"...many people living [in Xinjiang] are our relatives and that we will always be interested in those people's welfare.
Our government is and will continue to be sensitive over the plight of our Turkic and Muslim brothers throughout the world."
China, however, continues to stress national unity. In 2007, CCTV, the People's Republic of China's state run television station ordered major advertising agencies not to use pig images, cartoons or slogans "to avoid conflicts with ethnic minorities", a reference to China's Muslims.


  1. Gladney (1999), pg. 457
  2. Gladney (1999), pg. 458
  3. Muslim Population at
  4. Israeli (2002), pg. 253
  5. bbc religion and ethics ISLAM Integration [1]
  6. New Encyclopedia of Islam, pg. 622-25
  7. Gladney (1999), pg. 471
  8. bbc religion and ethics ISLAM China today BBC - Religion & Ethics - Islam in China (650-present): China today at
  9. Wintle (2003), pg. 300
  10. Gladney (1999), pg. 473
  11. Chinese Muslims in the year of the pig

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