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Cablegate: The Halal Network - Ningxia Reaches Out to the Muslim

VZCZCXRO2121
PP RUEHCN RUEHGH RUEHVC
DE RUEHBJ #6256/01 2670343
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 240343Z SEP 07
FM AMEMBASSY BEIJING
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2143
INFO RUEHOO/CHINA POSTS COLLECTIVE
ISLAM/ISLAMIC COLLECTIVE
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RUCPDOC/USDOC WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 BEIJING 006256

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/CM, NEA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON ETRD PGOV SOCI CH
SUBJECT: THE HALAL NETWORK - NINGXIA REACHES OUT TO THE MUSLIM
WORLD

REF: (A) BEIJING 5601
(B) BEIJING 5600
(C) BEIJING 5599

BEIJING 00006256 001.2 OF 002


SUMMARY
-------

1. Emerging economic ties between Ningxia Province and Islamic
countries suggest a broader potential for expanded commercial
interaction between China's Muslims -- which likely exceed 20
million and may number as many as 100 million according to
unofficial estimates -- and their brethren in the Middle East,
Africa, and Southeast Asia. A recent Halal Food/Muslim Commodities
Festival proved a significant draw for business people and diplomats
from Islamic countries. According to Malaysian trade promotion
officials, many in Malaysia see Muslim China as a great investment
option because of the combination of a shared heritage and a booming
economy, and they hope to expand awareness back home in the Chinese
market by cooperating with the local halal industry on certification
and trade initiatives. Also of note is assistance coming in to
Ningxia from Islamic countries for education and poverty alleviation
projects. END SUMMARY.

TRAVEL TO NINGXIA
-----------------

2. Econoff and Conoff traveled to Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region on
August 15-18. Emboffs participated in the Second Ningxia
International Halal Food and Muslim Commodities Festival (Halal
Festival) and the Investment and Trade Fair in Yinchuan, the
provincial capital, on August 15-16.

DIVERSE ATTENDANCE FROM ACROSS THE MUSLIM WORLD
--------------------------------------------- --

3. Approximately one-fourth of Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region's
population is of Hui ethnicity, a minority group that is
predominately Muslim. The Halal Festival is a government-organized
trade fair, focusing on building trade ties and cooperation between
Western China and other Muslim countries. Ningxia Acting Governor
Wang Zhangwei served as director of the second annual festival, held
on August 15-16, which attracted over 300 foreign visitors and
representatives from 21 primarily Muslim diplomatic missions in
China, including the Ambassadors of Jordan, Uganda, Guinea, Nigeria,
and Algeria.

4. Foreign booths filled about half of the first floor of the
Festival. The largest business contingents were from Thailand and
Malaysia, both with over 100 attendees. The Thailand delegation was
very well organized, with representatives from 28 halal food
companies. Malaysia had representatives from the Halal Industry
Development Corporation, the External Trade Development Corporation,
and private business, including a 25-member group from the Malaysia
Islamic Chamber of Commerce. Other countries, including Guinea,
Yemen, Iran, Uganda, Jordan, and Bosnia and Herzegovina, had a
lesser presence, with booths containing product or tourism
promotional materials.

5. Several Ningxia-based Muslim companies spoke of plans to export
and had prepared Arabic and English packaging and promotional
materials. One tea company advertised that it has several customers
in Russia and recently began exporting to Oman. Another company was
run by an expatriate Egyptian, selling MP4 Koran players and other
Muslim products. Companies selling halal/Muslim products also
attended from other parts of China, the most numerous being from
Xinjiang, Qinghai, Shanxi, and Gansu.

THE CHINESE HALAL ECONOMY - AN AIRBORNE SILK ROAD?
--------------------------------------------- -----

6. A Malaysian seafood exporter said that currently most Malaysian
food sales to China are to the prosperous coastal regions, but that
halal food companies see China as an important emerging Muslim
market. There are 90 million Muslims in China, he said. For a
company from Malaysia with only 26 million people, it is
significant, he said. (Note: According to official statistics,
China has only 18 million Muslims, but estimates of the actual
population range from 20 to 100 million. End Note.)

7. According to representatives from the Malaysia External Trade
Development Corporation, many in Malaysia see Muslim China as a
great investment option because of the combination of a shared
heritage and a booming economy. Their organization hopes to expand
awareness in the market by cooperating with the local halal industry
on certification and trade issues.


BEIJING 00006256 002.2 OF 002


8. Malaysia is attempting to enhance its presence in the Chinese
halal economy through cooperation on halal certification procedures,
stated a representative of the Malaysian Halal Industry Development
Corporation (HDC). The current Chinese halal certification
procedure is very poor, he said, so products with halal labeling in
China may not be accepted as such in Malaysia or other Muslim
countries. On August 16, the HDC and the Ningxia government signed
an agreement under which HDC will help Ningxia strengthen its
certification procedures.

9. Infrastructure development may lead to increased export
opportunities. In September a shipping company will begin direct
cargo flights from Yinchuan Airport to Dubai, promoting it as the
"Airborne Silk Road". A representative said that the initial
shipments will primarily consist of frozen halal mutton and other
meats.

AID AND INVESTMENT FROM MUSLIM COUNTRIES
----------------------------------------

10. Emboffs also visited Liangtian, a town of 70,000 near Yinchuan.
Most of the residents were relocated from southern Ningxia over the
past 20 years as part of an anti-erosion resettlement project. The
main street of the town is lined by new buildings built with Islamic
features, and 90 percent of the town's population is Hui Muslim.

11. The Ningxia Muslims Charitable Association (NMCA), founded by
two Hui brothers, has received aid from more affluent Muslim
countries for Islamic projects. The Association's website is solely
in Arabic, and the brothers displayed a clear enthusiasm for
developing ties to the Middle East.

12. NMCA's newest project is the Ningxia Islamic Vocational School,
funded in part by a grant from the Kuwait Religious Education
Foundation. The boarding school, which will open in September 2007
with 150 local students, will offer classes in Arabic, English,
computers, and business. The school will train students to serve as
translators and businessmen in the Arabic-speaking world.

13. Near the school, a simple mosque and surrounding neighborhood
of 40 housing compounds were built in 2004 by NMCA with a grant from
the United Arab Emirates. Other projects unrelated to NMCA include
the Ningxia Islamic College, which was built in the 1990s with
funding from the Islamic Development Bank, and a Kuwait-sponsored
display at Ningxia's Hui Ethnic Culture Garden.

RANDT

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