This article investigates the experiences of Arab dignitaries, journalists, youth groups, and trade envoys who have visited the People’s Republic of China in an official or semiofficial capacity since China’s initial overtures to Middle Eastern countries in 1955. First, it outlines the “standard itineraries” given to Arab delegations touring China both in the 1950s and in the twenty first century, demonstrating how the changes to this agenda reflect the shifting priorities of the Chinese state. Second, it explores how the Chinese government has refined the vision of Chinese Islam that it presents to visitors from the Middle East, taking into account Beijing’s changing attitude toward expressions of Islamic piety. Finally, this article asserts that, despite the social and political transformation China has undergone since 1949, the Chinese government has tried to impart to its guests a remarkably consistent ideological message about Chinese unity.
King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies