Memory, homecoming and the politics of diaspora tourism in China

Yujie Zhu*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Diaspora tourism has become a significant form of transnational mobility that underlies many issues in the field of tourism and migration studies. Despite a considerable body of research that focuses on tourism motivations of home return and its social functions in collective identities and meaning-making, the political roles of diaspora tourism in shaping ethnic bonds and transnational networks need to be further acknowledged. Since 2014, a group of Muslims from Kazakhstan have travelled to China to celebrate their return after over 140 years of displacement from their homeland. Interviews with local officials and residents in Xi’an illustrate the political factors of host governments and local Muslim communities in organising the formal group tourism events. Unlike informal and personal travel, such officially organised diaspora tourism does not serve as a simple act of homecoming. The host governments have used it as a political tool to shape transnational networks and domestic ethnic governance under the discourse of ‘Belt and Road’ initiative. To fulfil this political agenda, the official narrative of diaspora tourism involves a process of remembering and forgetting, and the creation of itineraries that authenticates the imagined ancestral homeland while effacing the unsettled past. The itinerary of tourism events and related cultural practices focuses on a shared ethno-religious identity and common interests of cultural and business exchange between the selected diaspora representatives and host communities. However, due to its political nature, the sustainability of diaspora tourism does not only relate to funding and resource management. Such organised diaspora tourism is also closely associated with the shifting ethnic and migration policies of the host nation-state.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)95-112
Number of pages18
JournalTourism Geographies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2023


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