China looks to meat exports to boost ties to Arab world
By William Wan, Published: December 27
YINCHUAN, China — The praying and slaughtering begin every morning at sunrise. “Allahu Akbar” intones the imam over each cow before it is strung up by its hooves and quartered.
This scene and other religious and ethnic practices set China’s Muslim minorities apart from the rest of the population, and the differences frequently led to clashes with the government in the past. But now, the country’s leaders are embracing the large Muslim population in this remote and relatively undeveloped city in the northwestern province of Ningxia, hoping that frozen packs of halal meat produced here can help build economic bridges with the Middle East.
With the U.S. and European economies still recovering, the Arab world is an increasingly enticing market for Chinese exports and a potential source of investors for Chinese projects. Middle Eastern countries are also some of the closest positioned to help develop China’s western provinces, which have fallen far behind its flourishing eastern coastal cities during the past three decades of economic boom.
Perhaps most important, on a strategic level, China wants to protect and strengthen its access to the Middle East’s oil and energy resources, which are fueling the country’s economic growth.
“The short-term goal of increasing halal meat going to Arab countries is to build up our local economy and workforce,” said one provincial official here, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the strategy of central authorities. “But the real goal is to introduce the Arab world to us and get them comfortable with the idea of building up their relations and investment in China. . . .