The state-run Communist Party mouthpiece framed the decision as “a bid to bolster traditional Chinese culture and rid the autonomous region of religious generalization.”
Though it may appear at first blush as nothing more than bureaucratic minutiae, the name change is a significant and vivid example of an escalating CCP campaign to “Sinicize religion” and bring to heel faith-based communities that the party associates with foreign influence.
Some thought the river’s previous name, “Aiyi,” sounded too much like “Aisha,” the name of one of Muhammed’s wives, a Hui studies researcher at Ningxia University explained to the Global Times. The Ningxia government reportedly chose to rename it “Diannong,” after the Han Dynasty-era moniker for the autonomous region’s present capital, Yinchuan.
“There are signs the repression of Islam in Xinjiang is spreading to Ningxia,” writes Jeremy Goldkorn for SupChina, “where it has traditionally been less strictly controlled.” ‘
This represents just one among many recent “nomenclature adjustments” to geographical features, roads, neighborhoods, and restaurants in the putative autonomous region, meant to “better reflect Chinese culture,” as experts put it to the Global Times.
[Images via Guancha]