Mosque in Xishuangbanna, China. [source]
You’ve heard of China’s ping-pong diplomacy and panda diplomacy, but how much do you know about its hajj diplomacy? Below is an excerpt of an interesting article we found on Middle East Online, written by Alain Gresh of Le Monde:
Abdul Karim Yaqoub is the young executive director of the Saudi Chinese Business Council, and is at present at Shanghai University, writing a thesis on relations between China and Saudi Arabia. He has Saudi nationality, but is of Chinese origin: In 1949 several hundred Muslim Chinese, fleeing the advance of Mao Zedong’s forces, emigrated to Saudi Arabia rather than Taiwan. Muslim Chinese from East Turkestan, now Xinjiang province, had already fled war in the 1930s to settle in Mecca and Medina.
After the communists took power in Beijing, religion created connections between the countries, through “hajj diplomacy.” At the Bandung conference in Indonesia in 1955, where the leaders of 29 newly independent nations created the non-aligned movement, crown prince (and future king) Faisal, and the Chinese foreign minister Zhou Enlai, agreed to allow Chinese Muslims to make the pilgrimage to Mecca. A few dozen did so every year until the Cultural Revolution of 1966, whose aim was to eradicate “traditional values,” ended this.
Relations deteriorated further when Riyadh established diplomatic relations with Taipei, and took an active part, in the 1960s and 70s, in the World Anti-Communist League founded by Chiang Kai-shek. (The French fascist movement Ordre Nouveau, the US Heritage Foundation and supporters of the Argentinean dictator Jorge Videla were part of the league.) Saudis of Chinese origin even acted subversively against the People’s Republic… [read full story here]
Read more about Islam in China here.