The practical Chinese

Love this little tidbit from Jim Fallows at The Atlantic about Chinese companies building a railroad in Saudi Arabia:

Some firms would have been put off by the fact that non-Muslims are barred from working in Mecca, so China simply converted hundreds of railway workers to Islam.

Read the whole article from The Economist.

About Younghusband

Sir Francis Edward Younghusband (1863-1942) was a British explorer, army officer, military-political officer, and foreign correspondent born in India who led expeditions into Manchuria, Kashgar, and Tibet. He three times tried and failed to scale Mt. Everest and journeyed from China to India, crossing the Gobi desert and the Mustagh Pass (alt. c.19,000 ft/5,791 m) of the Karakoram mountain range in modern day Pakistan. Convinced of Russian designs on British interests in India, Younghusband proactively engaged in the nineteenth century spying and conflict over Central Asia between the British and the Russians known as the Great Game. "Younghusband" is a Canadian who has spent a number of years bouncing back and forth between his home country and Japan. Fluent in Japanese and English with experience in numerous other languages from Spanish to Georgian, Younghusband has travelled throughout Asia. He graduated with an MA from the War Studies Department at the Royal Military College of Canada, where he focussed on the Japanese oil industry and energy security issues. He has recently returned to Canada from Japan, and is working in the technology sector.
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8 Responses to The practical Chinese

  1. Eric L. says:

    It seems far more likely to me that someone is yanking the Economist’s chain, and that the Chinese company in question went to Gansu and hired some construction workers who were already Muslims (or at least “Muslims by ethnicity”), rather than a risk giant scandals when photos surfaced of fake Chinese converts found gambling, eating pork, and drinking in Mecca or after they went on to their next job in the Middle East. (If no such photos could be found, I’m sure some online rabble-rousers would fabricate them anyway).

    Yes, fake converts might have been cheaper, but it was already clear in the first place that to China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, cost was no object in this thoroughly-politicized project.

  2. Curzon says:

    Also, it is rumored that a lot of the workers sent to overseas projects by Chinese state companies (in particular China State Engineering and Construction Company) are convicts who are released on the condition that they go to work on projects in far-flung corners of the globe. Converting to Islam is often part of that.

  3. Jupiter says:

    Why not employ Uighurs? The economy over there already sucks so many would presumably be glad for the opportunities, they’re predominantly Muslim already, and the Han Chinese would probably be glad to shrink the population of Uighurs in the Xinjiang region. Then again, I suppose that would carry the risk of an employee coming back with a nasty case of Radicalizationitis, which is the last thing the PRC would want..

  4. kurt9 says:

    They can just hire and send their Hui people (Chinese Muslims) to work on that railroad.

  5. Jing says:

    I suppose only an African would assume anyone working harder than they must be serving some form of penal labor.

  6. Roy Berman says:

    I also agree that it is far more likely that China sent Hui, who are essentially ethnic Han of the Muslim faith, despite being classified as their own ethnic group under current PRC law. There are roughly the same number of Hui as Uyghur in China (~10 million) but unlike the Uyghur, they aren’t particularly distrusted by the government as the Hui have been generally strong supporters of the Chinese state for quite a while, with there even being several notable Hui generals in Qing, ROC and PRC armies.

  7. Bob Harrison says:

    I love to cite the figure that there are more Muslims in China than there are in Saudi Arabia. East Asian mosques are absolutely fascinating from an architectural point of view.

  8. Roy Berman says:

    Yes, the grand mosque in Xi’an, which looks almost like a classic style Chinese Buddhist temple, was quite fascinating.