Good Minzu and Bad Muslims: Islamophobia in China’s State Media

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Since 2014, observers of Chinese society have noted an upsurge in Islamophobic sentiment among China’s ethnic majority Han. China’s Muslims, in particular those who identify as Hui and Uyghur, report an increase in harassment, both online and in person. This Islamophobic backlash occurs in conjunction with retrenchments by the Chinese state on the right to practice religion. What gives rise to this increase in bigotry? This pilot study examines official discourse about Islam through an inductive analysis of the presentation of Muslims in China’s state media. Using a process of constant comparative analysis, I examine the state media’s portrayal of Muslims in the flagship newspaper, The People’s Daily. Drawing from a sample of 70 articles published between 2014 and 2018, I argue that the party’s depiction of Muslim minorities in China emphasizes ethnic rather than religious identities, while coverage of global Islam emphasizes Islam as dangerous and associated with extremism. I contend that such depictions carry the unintended consequence of arousing suspicions about China’s Muslims among Han.
Original languageEnglish
JournalNations and Nationalism
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jul 2021


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