Chinese Salafists are not a unified organization but "a patchwork of relatively independent mosque / prayer-congregations" loosely connected through overlapping networks of students, teachers, and Ulema from shared overseas institutions and circles of study. These congregations are mostly concentrated in Northwest China, Yunnan, and Henan and are united by the presence of charismatic religious authorities. Salafi beliefs are not just limited to the adherents of the movement; as there exist various “Salafi grey zones” among other sects like the Yihewani and the Gedimu. These “Salafi grey zones” include Chinese Muslims who have (partially or fully) accepted Salafi doctrines and/or some of its intellectual stances like opposition to shirk, bid’ah, and taqlid. However many such Muslims do not identify as "Salafi" and this could be for several reasons including:
- A desire to remain within their sectarian tradition (like Yihewani imams and scholars who are Hanafi in madhab but are no longer Maturidi in their doctrinal beliefs).
- Fear of being ostracized or facing professional repercussions.
- Rejection of labels by the younger generations. 
The importer Ma Debao (1867–1977), when he undertook the Hajj, was influenced by the Salafi movement in Mecca. Upon his return to China he began to preach the Salafi ideology. The movement criticizes innovative Islam. It opposes new movements which it believes are against the Sunnah. It opposes the influence of no-sunna Chinese culture on Islam. The sect was firstly import in Hezhou of Gansu province but now spread in many places notably Ningxia, Qinghai, Yunnan, Tianjing with support of Saudi religious organizations.
Ma Debao and Ma Zhengqing promoted Salafism as the main form of Islam. But it was opposed by a number of Hui Muslim sects such as the Gedimu, Sufi Khafiya and Jahriyya, to the extent that even the fundamentalist Yihewani (Ikhwan) Chinese sect, founded by Ma Wanfu after Salafi inspiration, condemned Ma Debao and Ma Zhengqing as heretics. They were branded traitors and Wahhabi teachings were deemed as heresy by the Yihewani leaders.
The Kuomintang Yihewani General Ma Bufang, who backed the Yihewani (Ikhwan) Muslims, persecuted the Salafis and forced them into hiding. They were not allowed to move or worship openly. The Yihewani had become secular and Chinese nationalists; they considered the Salafiyya to be "heterodox" (xie jiao) and people who followed foreigners' teachings (waidao). After the Communists took power, Salafis were allowed to worship openly again.
Even among Hui Salafis and Uyghur Salafis, there is little coordination or cooperation and the two take totally different political agendas, with the Hui Salafists content to carry out their own teachings and remain politically neutral.
- ^ Turki A. Al-Sudairi, Mohammed (2016). "Adhering to the Ways of Our Western Brothers; Tracing Saudi Influences on the Development of Hui Salafism in China". Sociology of Islam (SOI) - Brill: 29.
- ^ Turki A. Al-Sudairi, Mohammed (2016). "Adhering to the Ways of Our Western Brothers; Tracing Saudi Influences on the Development of Hui Salafism in China". Sociology of Islam (SOI) - Brill: 30.
- ^ Sects And Legal Schools Represented By Muslims In China
- ^ a b Michael Dillon (1999). China's Muslim Hui community: migration, settlement and sects. Richmond: Curzon Press. p. 72. ISBN 0-7007-1026-4. Retrieved 2010-06-28.
- ^ Rubin, Barry M. (2000). Guide to Islamist Movements. M.E. Sharpe. p. 79. ISBN 0-7656-1747-1. Retrieved 2010-06-28.
- ^ al-Sudairi, Mohammed (October 28, 2014). "Chinese Salafism and the Saudi Connection". Mouqawamah Music. Archived from the original on October 22, 2015.
- ^ al-Sudairi, Mohammed (October 23, 2014). "Chinese Salafism and the Saudi Connection". The Diplomat.
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