Islamophobia in China, explained by Alice Su and Ma Tianjie


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Two astute observers of Chinese public opinion about Islam speak on Muslims’ difficulties in Chinese society.

Islamophobia isn’t a phenomenon limited to Trump’s America or the Europe of Brexit and Marine Le Pen. It has taken root in China, too — in a form that bears a striking resemblance to what we’ve seen in recent years in the West. The Chinese Party-state now faces a vexing conundrum: how to balance, on the one hand, its idea of China as a multiethnic state and prevent overt anti-Islamicism with, on the other hand, its commitment to atheism — all the while combating the “three evils” of terrorism, separatism, and religious extremism.

Kaiser and co-host Ada Shen spoke with the Amman, Jordan-based reporter Alice Su, who has written a series of pieces about Islam in China, and Ma Tianjie, the wise interpreter of Chinese public opinion and founder of the indispensable Chublic Opinion blog, to unpack the phenomenon of Chinese Islamophobia, and to explore the other difficulties that Muslims face in China on a daily basis.

Be sure to also check out Alice’s five articles on “Islam with Chinese characteristics,” which she wrote with a reporting grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. Every one of them is worth a good read.


Ada: Lab Girl, by Hope Jahren, an autobiography of a woman who is a renowned geobiologist. “You will never look at a tree the same way again,” Ada assures us.

Tianjie: The Silk Roads: A New History of the World, by Oxford historian Peter Frankopan. It rewrites world history while focusing on what we now call Central Asia and the Middle East, arguing that this area has truly been the center of world history for millennia. It also explores how religion affected trade routes and vice versa, a theme that Kaiser points out is also explored in Lost Enlightenment: Central Asia’s Golden Age from the Arab Conquest to Tamerlane, by S. Frederick Starr.

Alice: The Icelandair Stopover program. If you book international flights with a layover in Iceland, Icelandair will allow you to extend your layover for up to a week for free. In addition, it will pair you up with a buddy to explore the food, culture, and sights of Iceland — also for free.

Kaiser: The Orphan Master’s Son, by Adam Johnson. A fascinating novel set in the North Korea of Kim Jong Il that won a series of literary prizes after it was released in 2012, including the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.