Driven by the need to survive in a predominately non-Muslim society, Chinese Muslims, or the Chinese-speaking Hui people, have traditionally played the role of a middleman minority. During the last few decades, benefiting from the strengthening economic ties between China and the Arab world, especially the Arabian Gulf countries, Hui Muslims have gained greater visibility and relevance in Sino-Arab relations. Enabled by their dual identity, Hui Muslims have evolved from a middleman minority that exists on the margin to cultural brokers who are increasingly central in China's Belt and Road Initiative. Drawing on a multiyear ethnographic study of overseas Chinese in Dubai—the most important trade hub and a rising global city in the Arab world, this article shows that through actively utilizing religious and cultural capital, Hui Muslims in Dubai play the role of trusted mediators between diverse Chinese interests and the Arab Muslim elites and have become "cultural ambassadors" in a region of growing strategic importance to China, cultivating an image of "good Muslims" in the eyes of Chinese authorities.


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pp. 131-154
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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